Jenny Xu is one talented fourth grader.
In the span of three short years, Xu moved to New Jersey from China, learned the English alphabet and language, and was chosen as a national grade-level semifinalist in the 2019 Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest.
The Cherry Hill elementary school student’s cursive entry was the second best among all fourth-grade entries from across the country for the contest, which included over 200,000 participants. She received a medal, trophy and certificate at her River Edge school’s assembly, which was packed with dozens of third through sixth graders, parents, and teachers.
“It feels really great because I’ve been practicing for three years,” she said. “I’m really interested in all the loopy letters.”
Xu credited her dad’s support for her success in handwriting, saying his career as an architect helps encourage her. “When I first started handwriting, it came out bad,” she said. “I wasn’t good with spacing and had trouble with o’s after the loop.”
But her hard work and practice paid off, as she moved past the handwriting practice books in school that focus on letters to writing words and paragraphs. Xu says she writes a little Mandarin as well, although she says English is easier for her.
The Zaner-Bloser contest awards a distinction to nine students, one in each grade from kindergarten through eighth, who have the best handwriting among all entries in their respective grade levels. An additional nine students, including Xu, were chosen as semifinalists.
The contest entries are judged according to shape, size, spacing, and slant. All competing students are required to write the following sentence on their entry form, because it contains every letter in the alphabet: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”
Xu offered a practical piece of advice for aspiring calligraphers still in school: “If you want to practice, make sure the book is slanted for the curve. Practice more and more until you get the hang of it.”
The handwriting semifinalist isn’t limited to writing words, however. She also enjoys drawing clothes and hopes to be a clothing designer one day.
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