Research by the National Literacy Trust examines attitudes towards writing among children and young adults.
Much has been done in terms of studying the importance of wider reading for enjoyment and its connection to reading ability, but what about writing?
The National Literacy Trust wanted to answer the question of whether or not children who write for enjoyment benefit from it in terms of both writing ability and frequency. They surveyed 39,411 pupils, aged 8-18 years about their attitudes towards writing in order to examine the link between writing enjoyment and writing behaviour, confidence, motivation and attainment.
Children who write creatively outside of school are more likely to be better writers.
What they found is, although most children aged 8-11 write at the expected level, regardless of whether they write for fun in their spare time, twice as many young people who do write creatively outside of school actually write above the expected level for their age.
In comparison, eight times as many children who do not enjoy writing, write below the expected level for their age.
Children who enjoy writing are more likely to write something in their free time that isn’t school-work related and these children write a greater range of different formats during this time. They are motivated because they believe writing is fun and cool, for example. They also believe writing will help them learn and the more they do, the better they will be at it.
Over twice as many children who enjoy writing will write something daily outside of the classroom that’s not related to school work. They write fiction/short stories, letters, poems, diaries, song lyrics, among other things.
Writing enjoyment levels are at their highest since the National Literacy Trust first started surveying children and young people in 2010.
More girls than boys enjoy writing, with the gender gap slightly widening since the previous year, and three times as many children aged 8-11 enjoy writing compared with their peers aged 14-16.
The findings of this research highlight how important it is for children and young people to enjoy writing, for the benefit of their writing attainment.
How can we get children to enjoy writing?
Getting children to see that writing, when not at school, can be fun, isn’t easy. Many see it as a chore, an extension of their homework, and don’t they get enough of that already?
At the Storymakers Writing Club, we work in small groups of six. The sessions often involve lively discussion and debate, but we do get words down on paper! I encourage the children to share ideas and help each other, but at the same time, they also know they need to put down their own ideas and they’re very willing to do so.
The younger groups, that’s the 7-10 year olds, have examined a number of different writing styles over the course of this year. They created their own comic strip stories, complete with illustrations, before moving on to script writing and sports reporting. Every term we look at a different style of writing, to keep things interesting and the children motivated.
Similarly, the older group (11 years plus) work on projects and have just completed their own fully illustrated picture books. This group were invited to read out their stories at our local library during its weekly Story Time session, an exercise that benefitted not only the writers themselves, but the children who were listening to the stories.
It is a big deal for a writer to read out his or her work and a huge confidence boost when it is so well received.
Having projects like this to complete gives the children something to show for all their hard work. The Young Writers so impressed the staff at the library, they have asked to work with them again on their next project.
At Storymakers, no child is ever judged for the quality of their work. We are here to help and encourage and what we want most of all, is to see the children overcome their barrier to writing and just go for it. Once they do this, they become so proud of their work and this in turn, encourages them to write more.
See the website to find out more about the Storymakers Writing club or to book a place on one of the courses.