The 2022 National Literacy Trust survey of children and young people’s writing habits once again revealed disappointing results. According to this survey, it is not common for kids to engage in writing for the sheer fun of it. Writing is not a leisure activity that tends to be included on a child’s list of things to do in their free time.
Reflecting this despondency when it comes to kids writing, the findings indicated that just over 2 in 5 children enjoy writing and fewer than 1 in 5 write regularly in their free time.
When we know that regular writing leads to better attainment in writing overall, these results are a shame. Not only that, writing can also promote wellbeing and confidence, allowing children to make sense of their feelings and the world around them.
What is it, then, that stops kids writing and what can we do about it?
The findings of this survey, taken among 70,403 children and young people aged 5 to 18 from 327 schools in England, Scotland and Wales, indicate that children who don’t write in their free time choose not to do so for various reasons. These include not knowing what to write about, not having confidence in their abilities and lacking the right environment in which to focus on writing. Children also tend to put other activities higher on their priority list. Writing simply isn’t often on their agenda.
Children who claimed to enjoy reading were among those who admitted to not enjoying writing.
What makes these findings such a shame is that among those who do like to write in their free time, many choose to do so because it helps them understand their emotions and feelings and make sense of the world. It also provides a form of escapism. It’s not just about helping them to become better writers, it’s also about helping them to feel better about themselves.
How, then, can we encourage a writing culture among our children?
Despite no direct link between being a reader and being a writer, children certainly find inspiration from books. They also cite movies and authors as sources of inspiration, as well as prompts they find online. Many also said they prefer to write using a device, as they find it easier to make changes and correct mistakes. They also use devices to make social connections and enjoy writing this way.
Three broad terms come out of this report: creativity, mindfulness and social connections.
Taking these into consideration, here are my top 5 ways to help get kids writing for fun.
1. Having something tangible to show for your writing is a fabulous motivator. There are lots of websites that facilitate writing a story where you can even get them published as a book.
2. Movie making/Songwriting – There are various movie-making apps, with iMovie being among them, that kids love to use. Making a short film is a creative process and writing the script to go with it is a way of encouraging writing without it seeming like an arduous or pointless task. Similarly, creating lyrics for a song is a cathartic and fulfilling experience for those who use music as an outlet.
3. Journalling is a popular creative outlet that forms part of the mindfulness process. For kids, there are now numerous journalling apps that help make keeping a journal a fun and interactive process. As we know children love to use a device, and we can perhaps encourage them to write by combining the two, this could be a worthwhile route to explore.
4. For teens and tweens, Fan Fiction is a great way to encourage writing. The downside of Fan Fiction sites, however, is that the content isn’t monitored and so you can often come across sexual content that isn’t appropriate for their age. There are lots of guidelines available online to help you navigate the world of Fan Fiction so it’s worth exploring these first before you decide whether you would like your child to use one of the available platforms. The beauty of Fan Fiction is that the characters are already in existence and the writers are simply taking those characters into journeys and scenarios of their choosing.
5. Another way to form social connections through writing is to join a creative writing group. There is a lot to be said about peer group learning. Plus, being around others in a creative environment makes it a more engaging and sociable experience.
Formed in 2017, the Storymakers Writing Club aims to promote and foster a love of writing. Children aged 7+ can join a weekly creative writing group that runs during term time. During school holidays, there are week-long book writing workshops that result in the child becoming a published author. Additionally, throughout the year, you can book individual lessons for English and writing support. The Storymakers Club has something to offer everyone and for all abilities.