Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Stationery Studio

Stationery Studio

Fall 2007 Software
Ages: 5 - 11 yrs.
Publisher: Fablevision
Price: $69.95
Platform: Windows/MAC

Intended to be used as a handwriting development aid and as a tool for encouraging creative writing, Stationery Studio offers numerous options for creating and customizing stationery for beginning writers. Unlike other handwriting programs on the market - those aimed at systematically instructing students in letter formation - this software instead encourages the student to use those same handwriting skills in other areas of learning - for example, on math papers, on creative writing assignments, in writing letters to friends - by making the pages appealing and appropriate to the writing theme.

The top level of the program offers several menu choices. The primary choice is to create new stationery, which leads to a selection of themes; after the theme is chosen, the user is taken to the customization screen, which is relatively intuitive. Another top-level choice is for a tour of the game, which covers all the features, making the rest of the program easy to decipher. A third choice links to classroom activities in language arts, science, social studies, math, and other areas, which connect to a file browser in the underlying computer operating system (using, fortunately, intuitive names, so if the link is less than elegant it is nevertheless effective) to bring up the projects (which, in turn, include links to PDF files of activity instructions).

Users can create lined papers for handwriting practice in several styles of lines to coordinate with numerous handwriting program conventions. The user has the option to add borders, shapes and images and to add text to the page. Colors of text and images can be customized; fonts built into the computer can also be incorporated with surprising success. Line sizes can be adjusted for heights appropriate from the kindergarten level on up.

Thus when pages are printed they can be used for handwriting practice, hopefully interesting enough to motivate children to practice more often. Furthermore, the classroom activities can be used to stimulate creative writing or to allow a more structured approach to science, math, or social studies projects. These projects are laid out in detail but are expected to be part of a larger curriculum, so their purpose for inclusion in the software is again to encourage appropriate handwriting and to stimulate creativity in the students and teachers within the framework of the curriculum.

Stationery Studio is useful to those working in a wide range of handwriting styles and over several years of handwriting development. The software is easy to use, if not absolutely seamless, and would likely be well utilized in an elementary classroom. Its price makes it less practical for home instruction (a “homeschoolers edition” priced closer to $30 would be welcome) but it seems ideal and affordable for school purchase.

Emily Crawford   ©2007 Parents' Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master's in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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