Carmel first-grader a national handwriting champion


Smoky Row Elementary School student Namuun Baasanbold was named first grade national grand champion in the 2024 Zaner-Bloser handwriting contest, the company announced April 1.

Bassanbold said she was “very happy” to win and celebrated by going out to dinner with her family and her best friend’s family.

The only winner from Indiana, Baasanbold was selected as one of 28 regional winners and then as one of nine grand champions.

“It’s definitely a historic moment for our family,” said Miga Namsrai, Baasanbold’s mother.

The contest has averaged 80,000 submissions each year since 1991, according to Amanda Stedke, Zaner-Bloser vice president of product.

The categories include print for grades K through two and cursive for grades three through six.

“Every student – whether it’s print or cursive – has to write the same sentence, which is ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,’ because it contains every letter in the alphabet,” Stedke said.

A team of independent handwriting experts judge each entry. 

“They have what we call our keys to legibility, which is related to the shape, size, slant of letters and spacing between letters,” Stedke said.

Namsrai entered her daughter in the contest after reading Margeret Thatcher’s autobiography.

“(Thatcher) read a local newspaper and then found that very tiny advertisement about handwriting contests, entered the contests, and then she won. And since then everybody treated her equally as the male students,” Namsrai said.

Namsrai encourages Baasanbold and her older sister to write as often as possible through pen pal correspondence. The girls write regularly to families in Canada and Zimbabwe.

“But to me, handwriting is also one type of brain workout and a way to introduce certain standards to the children,” Namsrai said. “Also it’s very unique, and we all are unique in facial or body language.”

She encourages other parents to enter their children in the contest.

Stedke said the contest hasn’t seen a decrease in submissions even though many schools have stopped prioritizing handwriting – particularly cursive – in their curriculum.

“We know from research that the process of writing letters by hand in both print and cursive plays a really important role in how kids learn to spell and read and write,” Stedke said. “It also ties back to overall cognitive development, their hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. So as a part of that it’s being reintroduced to legislate through legislation to school standards.” 

Baasanbold will receive a trophy and cash prize for her national win and a medallion for her regional win.