In the right hands, fountain pens produce some beautiful lettering, so it stands to reason that giving your child a fountain pen might be the right way to neaten the little one’s Ps and Qs.
And it very well might. Then again, you might end up spending money on an expensive pen for naught.
There seem to be two schools of thought on the use of fountain pens to improve children’s handwriting. One holds that it might make some small improvement, but isn’t the main contributing factor. The other posits that use of a fountain pen instills handwriting discipline that leads to neatness.
We think there’s some merit to the idea that fountain pens can help children write more neatly, but do not see it as the sole solution.
Dyas Lawson, who has written the definitive guide to handwriting on the Paperpenalia.com site, puts it this way:
A fountain pen may make your writing look a bit better, but if your writing looks as if frenzied chickens got loose on the page, chances are this won’t be enough. Most likely, you’ll need to retrain your arm and hand.
We posed the question to the fountain pen enthusiasts at the Fountain Pen Network and got some thoughtful, interesting replies.
MJSchuelke, from Munich, wrote:
Keep in mind…that fountain pens are still common in schools in several European countries, e.g., France and Germany…And while I can't speak for others, I remember that my own handwriting became much more fluent and legible when I switched from pencil to fountain pen, about 1/2 year into school.
OtterNZ, a university student from New Zealand, said:
Growing up in the 90's I was never taught proper cursive, only print. For print a ball point was fine, but I'm trying to teach myself cursive so I needed something that could write easily at a low angle. So yes, they are useful for teaching proper handwriting. Also, I'm a university student, so I do large amounts of writing. I find that with a fountain pen I can write for longer before I get any cramping, than I would with a ball point.
There was agreement among the fountain pen users that, while fountain pens make for a more comfortable writing experience due to the low writing angle, they could be too messy for younger children because of the potential for ink spills.
We also talked to Dr. Rosemary Sassoon, one of the UK’s top experts on handwriting.
She said finding the right pen does make a difference in a person’s handwriting, but what constitutes the “right pen” is a very individual matter. Thus, while fountain pens may be good for some children, they aren’t necessarily the proper choice for all.
“I can't give you a blanket, ‘Yes,’” she said.
Dr. Sassoon said it is important to good handwriting to allow the child to pick the instrument. That can be difficult these days since so many pens are packaged, leaving buyers with no way to test the feel and writing ability of the pen before making a purchase. But, when possible, kids should try them to find the ones they like.
“I do think choice is a very good thing,” Sassoon said.
However, some teachers insist that fountain pens improve are the proper tools to children’s handwriting. You may have heard recently about a school in Scotland – featured on The One Show on BBC1 – that requires children in Primary 6 and 7 to use fountain pens.
The Mary Erskine and Stewart’s Melville Junior School starts students off in P4 with a “fresh start” writing programme in which students use pencils while they re-learn basic letter formation. After two years of that, students take up fountain pens as their required writing instruments and continue training in cursive writing.
The school reports:
When children are initially introduced to the fountain pen, the speed of their writing slows considerably as their focus is on care and attention to detail. As they become comfortable with the tool, their writing speed increases without marked deterioration in style and usually within half a term, they are writing faster than they were. Fountain pens allow the ink to flow smoothly from the nib and, although we acknowledge with the children that they will not use a fountain pen on all occasions, after two years of focus on the instrument they have the skill to use as and when needed for the rest of their lives.
Earlier this year, headmaster Bryan Lewis wrote a piece in the Edinburgh Evening News explaining the school’s position. In it, he claimed that the simple use of a fountain pen affects other aspects of students’ lives.
Although there is no direct link between using a fountain pen and examination results, there is a significant benefit to the children's self-respect.
When writing with a fountain pen, pupils have to concentrate and take their time. With practise they become proficient and they realise they have created something beautiful in itself, which encourages them to ensure the content reflects the quality of the writing.
Children who are proud of the standards they set for themselves are far more likely to achieve academic success and for that reason, excellent handwriting, just like excellent manners and a commitment to hard work, is a crucial component of the education we provide.
It seems a bit of a stretch to think that the simple use of a fountain pen will in some way turn children into super-achievers, but there certainly is nothing wrong with trying to teach them to write correctly and take pride in their work.
If you do decide to buy your child a fountain pen, we suggest starting with something inexpensive. The experts at the Fountain Pen Network recommend both the Pelikan Pelikano Junior and the Lamy ABC for young writers.
As usual, readers, we want to hear what you think. Do fountain pens improve children’s handwriting?