Stocking up with new pens and stationary is one of our favorite September ‘back to school’ treats.

But it seems that adding a new pen and notebook to your new semester shopping list isn’t just fun – it might even help with your studies.

There is an idea that most people are more comfortable taking notes with a pen and paper because that’s what they’ve used all their lives.  But Dr. Virginia Berniger at the University of Washington has thrown doubt on this received wisdom.

She has studied children’s writing ability and found it was consistently better when using pen and paper than when typing.

They wrote faster, they wrote more, and they wrote a complete sentence.  Her studies are particularly interesting since her young subjects don’t have a bias and haven’t yet developed a preference for either tool.

It isn’t just your writing ability that can benefit from using pen and paper.

Henriette Anne Klauser, writer of “Write it down, make it happen” argues that there are scientific reasons why writing things down also helps with our learning and later recall.  She suggests that writing stimulates the brain’s reticular activating system, or RAS, giving more importance to things you are actively focusing on.

She writes:

“Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail!’.”

In fact, several studies have found that note-taking has helped with recall and academic performance, especially in terms of language learning.

All of which means my usual splurge on stationary at the start of the semester can now be enjoyed guilt-free and with a certain sense of moral rectitude.