Every year the National Literacy Trust surveys children and young people about their writing habits, and 2019 saw daily writing rates drop to their lowest since the survey began in 2010.
The good news is, that figure was on the rise slightly, just before lockdown, when this year’s survey took place.
Given the uniqueness of the situation, the NLT decided to reach out to pupils during the lockdown to find out if and how it had affected their writing, and the results are extremely revealing.
Surveying 4,141 pupils aged 8-18 from 51 schools, the survey on literacy practices as a result of lockdown, took place between May and Early June 2020.
The most crucial elements to come out of this survey are ‘time’ and ‘freedom’. Children cited having more time to think and more time to write as factors that increased their enjoyment of writing.
“I like writing more because I had more time to do it and I realised I like it.”
Having this time to think has inspired creativity and 2 in 5 children (39.7%) said they have written more stories and fiction during lockdown than before.
Children must be given the opportunity to use writing as a tool for navigating difficult circumstances.
Writing has been an important outlet for self-expression among children during this time. Of the children who have written more during lockdown, around a quarter have turned to a diary or a journal, with 2 in 5 (41.3%) saying writing makes them feel better and 1 in 4 (24.8%) saying writing helps them when they feel sad that they can’t see family or friends.
Lockdown writing has helped children block out worries and cope with anxieties. It has been an outlet for expressing their thoughts and feelings, reflecting on the positive, or a form of escapism. Through letters they have found new ways of connecting with people and for some, freedom to choose the medium of writing, be that traditional paper and pen, or screen, has had an impact too.
Clearly from this research, we can learn how important it is to foster a love of writing in children, giving them time and space; valuable ways to voice thoughts and help develop ideas.
The last few months have been difficult with children unable to attend school. However, this time has been an opportunity for children to find a love of writing that is not confined by the National Curriculum. It is a time where children can be encouraged to write freely, record their thoughts in a journal, write about the beauty of nature, make their own books, re-write the endings of others.
By exploring writing in a different way, children can discover the link between storytelling and creativity, with music and art, and most importantly, to discover the beauty of words and how crucial they are as a form of expression.
As an author, and writing tutor at the Storymakers Writing Club, I actively encourage daily writing practice. Throughout lockdown, I have been running daily sessions for groups or individuals, with my focus always on fostering a love of the written word.
In a world that shouts loudly, being able to express yourself through the written word is increasingly important. Writing gives you a voice. It enables you to communicate and be heard above the noise. To be able to write, and write well, is a gift to yourself.
The benefits of writing enjoyment in the support of mental wellbeing among children has already been shown. It is clear, however, that creative writing has its role to play in helping children navigate their way through difficult times and this is something that needs to be considered within the school environment.