Encouraging boys to write - Nikki Young

Encouraging boys to enjoy writing

The majority of the children who come to my creative writing workshops are girls. There aren’t many boys who come to my courses and workshops purely because they enjoy writing. I think mainly it is their parents who are keen to encourage them to enjoy writing because as is commonly known, boys are less inclined to enjoy it.

Why is that?

Encouraging boys to write - Nikki Young

Is there a stigma attached to writing if you’re a boy? Is it too ‘girly’? I hope not because there are plenty of successful male authors, including those who write children’s books. Being an author is a perfectly respectable career whether you are male or female don’t you think?

Boys are naturally more mathematical and less inclined towards the creative arts, at least when they are at primary school anyway. Perhaps they prefer a straightforward answer and the immediacy of maths and science that you don’t get with writing-related activities.

What I can say with certainty is that they don’t lack for ideas. In fact, they equal the girls when it comes to imagination, but it’s getting them to write these ideas down in a structured format such as a story that seems to be the problem.

I came across a Twitter feed the other day where Library Sarah asked for male authors to say why it is they write. She wants to encourage a love of writing amongst the boys in the school where she works and hopes they will be positively influenced by real-life male authors saying ‘do you know what, it’s ok to enjoy writing’. There was a huge response to the shout out for quotes from male authors and what some of them had to say was pretty inspiring I think you will agree:

Chris Callaghan‏ @callaghansstuff
Teacher saw me daydreaming out the window-“I don’t care if the Queen rides by on an elephant”. I turned it into a story. Teachers are great!

Pie Corbett‏ @PieCorbett
I write so I can ride a dragon, swim with dolphins, dig up treasure, climb Kilimanjaro & walk on Jupiter all from the safety of home.

Guy Bass‏ @GuyBassBooks
When you write, you become the lord and master of a universe, unique and of your own creation. Feel free to let the power go to your head.

SF Said‏ @whatSFSaid
I love writing because I love stories! Anyone can be a writer – just write the story you most want to read yourself.

Christopher Edge‏ @edgechristopher
You can make people laugh, you make people cry, you can make people gasp in excitement. All with the words you write. That’s a superpower.

Chris Bradford‏ @YoungSamurai
You are the director of your own ‘mind movies’

Dave Rudden‏ @d_ruddenwrites
I got stick in school for ‘living in my own head.’ Writing lets me invite the world in and show that my head isn’t such a bad place to be.

Tom Easton‏ @TomEaston
Sometimes when I write I become totally immersed in the story and lose myself for an hour or two in another world.

Peadar Ó Guilín‏ @TheCallYA
I love to create my own worlds and fill them with the coolest, craziest things I can imagine.

Ross Montgomery‏ @mossmontmomery
Writing allows you to do LITERALLY whatever you want. There are no wrong choices: just strange stories.

Dan Nieman‏ @DLNieman
I like building things. Writing is building with words; building houses, cities, and even words. When writing all limits disappear.

Simon P. Clark‏ @sipclark
You get to be in charge and make your own rules. You can show other people what’s in your head. It was reading books that made me a writer!

Jonathan Eyers‏ @EyersJonathan
Writing is the closest I’ll ever get to being a time travelling wizard who saves the world.

Gareth Pirate Jones‏ @jonesgarethp
Writing is playing. Playing with words, playing with ideas, playing with stories. And who doesn’t like playing? Boring idiots, that’s who.

Ben Davis ‏ @bendavis_86
When you’re a writer, you’re never bored. You can make whole worlds fly out of your fingertips!

Is there a stigma attached to boys and writing? Does use of electronics get in the way?

Perhaps it’s a maturity thing and they just lack behind the girls a little in their ability to present their ideas.

Research from the National Literacy Trust, published in 2016, shows the differences in enjoyment of writing between the genders. In 2015, there was a 15.1% difference between enjoyment of writing amongst girls and boys. This difference is higher than the gender gap in reading enjoyment, measured at 13.4% in the 2015 survey. Girls not only enjoy writing more than boys, they write more frequently outside of the classroom.

Encouraging boys to enjoy writing - Nikki Young

When it comes to attitudes towards writing, this survey shows boys agree it is easier to read than write. In addition, more boys than girls believe a good writer writes neatly and knows how to type. The boys agree that girls tend to enjoy writing more than boys, whilst the girls are more likely to agree that writing is cool.

Attitudes towards writing amongst boys become increasingly more negative with age, as they tend to be more disengaged with writing in terms of enjoyment and attitudes as they move through the Key Stages. KS4 boys are, however, significantly more likely to write technology-based formats such as emails and social media messaging, due to phone ownership at this age.

Awareness of attitudes towards writing among boys is one thing. How do you encourage them to enjoy writing though?

Positive influences from male authors is something that can really help to show boys it can be cool to write. The organisation, Words for Life also offers these tips for how to get boys to write:

  • Finding their passion – they are more likely to write about things that interest them
  • Visual aids – boys are often visual learners, so such things as a story map with pictures may help them
  • Planning out the story stages and characters before they write
  • Experimenting with other types of writing such as non-fiction or comic strips

Creative writing workshops with Storymakers

Storymakers builds on the amazing imaginations children have naturally, offering guidance to harness those wonderful ideas in a fun process that focuses on all aspects of creativity. The workshops and courses are practical-based and most importantly, they are fun. For example, we explore how using all our senses can help with descriptive writing. We look at different forms of writing such as picture books, comic strips and mini plays. We even make our own book trailers! My aim is to help children see how story making links to other forms of art, hoping to inspire them to write stories of their own, or seek them out through wider reading.

Hopefully I can have a positive influence on boys and their attitudes to writing too!

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