Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Simon Mayo supports drive to get boys writing!

  • New National Literacy Trust research shows boys’ are half as likely to enjoy writing than girls
  • Simon Mayo joins the charity’s campaign encouraging boys to write

New research published last week by the National Literacy Trust reveals that boys are half as likely to enjoy writing as girls and almost a third never or rarely write outside of class. Broadcaster and children’s author Simon Mayo joins the National Literacy Trust in calling for a renewed focus both at school and at home on ways to get boys into writing.

The National Literacy Trust’s third annual literacy survey of 35,000 8-16 year olds shows that boys are much less enthusiastic about writing than girls. The charity’s report Children and Young People’s Writing in 2012, outlines that:

  • Almost a third of boys say they never or rarely write outside of class (30.2%), half as many girls admitted the same (17.3%) and a third of girls write outside of class daily (32.6%).

  • Boys are twice more likely than girls to say that they don’t enjoy writing at all (20.9% vs. 8.6%)

  • 1 in 5 boys (19.5%) admit that “I would be embarrassed if friends saw me write,” compared with 1 in 8 girls (12.7%)

  • More girls than boys say that “writing is cool” (girls 35.2%, boys 26.8%)

  • Boys are also more likely than girls to agree that “if you can use a spellchecker there is no point in learning spelling and grammar” (boys 30.6%, girls 21.7%)

The National Literacy Trust’s report also reflects a direct link between children’s enjoyment of writing and their results at school. Of those young people who don’t enjoy writing at all, over half write below the expected level, and two-fifths at the expected level. Only 7% of young people who don’t enjoy writing at all write above the level expected for their age.

Simon Mayo, author of the Itch series, whose protagonist is a 14-year-old boy obsessed with science and on a mission to collect all the elements in the periodic table, says:

“It’s so important for boys to find a topic that interests them before they pick up a pen and start writing. I wasn’t particularly interested in writing at school, I only started to enjoy it later on, but I was hampered by being fantastically slow. When I started writing the first Itch book, it was as a short story for my son, but then I was completely captivated by the plot and characters, and the story took over. If you can grab a child’s imagination in the same way, getting them to write about a hobby or something they really enjoy doing then the whole story writing world is open to them.”

This echoes findings from the National Literacy Trust’s report, showing that three quarters of children and young people (75.7%) claim “writing is more fun when you can choose the topic.”

Julie Gibbings, a Senior Programme Manager at the National Literacy Trust who lead’s the charity’s network for schools and literacy professionals says:

“Reading and writing go hand-in-hand and it is through writing that children learn to formulate thoughts and improve their creativity and thinking skills. Our research shows that we must focus on increasing boys’ enjoyment of writing, if we are to support them to succeed at school and throughout their future lives. It’s down to teachers as well as parents to nurture a love of writing in boys’ and help to develop positive attitudes towards it early on in their education.”

The National Literacy Trust has also today launched the results of its 2-year action research project: Transforming Writing. The project, sponsored by Esmée Fairbairn,has developed a systematic approach for assessing writing that aims to raise attainment among primary school pupils.

In summary, the Transforming Writing project increased pupil’s attainment in and enjoyment of writing in all of the 12 schools that took part in the two-year research project. Key results include:

  • 68% of children who were taught by teachers participating in the Transforming Writing project made more than expected progress in writing during one academic year.

  • Similar progress was made by all children, regardless of their gender. 66.7% of boys and 69.3% of girls made above expected progress.
  • The proportion of all children who said they enjoyed writing ‘Quite a lot’ or ‘A lot’ increased by 10% (percentage points).

Visit www.wordsforlife.org.uk to view tips for parents on how to support their children, particularly boys, in improving their writing skills.

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