Research has revealed that children who enjoy writing outside of school are seven times more likely to write above the expected level for their age compared to children who do not enjoy writing.
The survey from the National Literacy Trust into the attitudes of more than 39,000 schoolchildren also revealed that pupils from black backgrounds were 7% more likely to enjoy writing than those from white backgrounds.
'Writing for Enjoyment and its Link to Wider Reading' was published on 20th June to celebrate the inargural National Writing Day, a new campaign run by charity First Story, which encourages children to write through various events and projects across the country.
The report from the literacy charity shows that 23% of pupils who enjoy writing outside of school write above the level expected for their age compared to 3% of children who do not enjoy the activity. Half of pupils do not enjoy writing outside of school (49%) with the biggest barriers cited as “not being able to decide what to write”, followed by “struggling with spelling and grammar”.
The research, which was partly funded by law firm Slaughter and May, also revealed variation in the type of writing children focused on. Those who enjoy writing are most interested in writing fiction (38% for those who enjoy writing outside of school compared to 12% for those who do not). Pupils less interested in writing are more engaged in writing in technology formats such as text messages (75% compared to 68% of those keen on writing) however the data showed that technology is a popular format for all children.
As children grow older the enjoyment around writing appears to decrease and there were demographic variations. Three times as many children aged between eight and 11 enjoy writing very much compared to 14-16-year-olds (36% vs 11%). The data also suggested a differentiation in gender - 60% of girls enjoy writing outside of the school environment compared to 42% of boys. Fewer pupils from white ethnic backgrounds (48%) enjoyed writing in 2016 compared with pupils from mixed backgrounds (52%), Asian (55%) and Black (55%) ethnic backgrounds.
Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said encouraging children to write would boost overall outcomes and that National Writing Day would help achieve this. He said: “Our research consistently finds that children who enjoy writing do much better at school, but it also shows that far too many pupils still don’t enjoy writing and this could be holding them back from reaching their full potential."
He added: “It’s now time to give writing for enjoyment the focus it deserves, which is why we’re so thrilled to be supporting the UK’s first National Writing Day.”
William Fiennes, founder of First Story said the research showed there needs to be more promotion of writing amongst young people.
He said: “Creative writing can help build students’ confidence, creativity and aspiration, as well as improving literacy and contributing to good mental health.”
Author and comedian Charlie Higson said: “There's been a big focus on reading as an aid to literacy, and there are no end of events, festivals and initiatives promoting it. I've been writing since I was eight and it's been a huge part of my life.”
He added: “I hope National Writing Day will inspire children and young adults to give writing a go and unleash their imaginations.”