New research published today to mark National Writing Day shows that lockdown has inspired a resurgence in children and young people’s creative writing, which has in turn played an important role in supporting their wellbeing during a time of uncertainty.
The report is based on surveys of young people aged 8 to 18 in the UK conducted before and during lockdown. The report found that more children and young people are writing short stories or fiction (40%), letters (39%), diaries or journals (27%) and poems (21%) in lockdown than they did before. Many children and young people attributed this rise to lockdown providing them with the inspiration and conditions they need to write more creatively, such as having more time and space to think and generate ideas, and having the option to write using devices.
Local National Literacy Trust campaign Our Stories, funded by the North Yorkshire Coast Opportunity Area, has special reason to celebrate this research, since partnering with the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough to create a six week programme of inspiration for young writers. Your Stories launched at the start of June, a story creation project with a brilliant creative team on board to equip young people with the skills needed to tell their own story.
Every Monday, Chelsey Gillard, Carne Trust Associate Director at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, sets a weekly theme based on a different element of story creation. So far participants have created characters, invented settings and started to think about conflict. Bestselling children’s author Saviour Pirotta, professional illustrator Simon Whittaker and actor and poet Nadia Emam then share regular vlogs packed with writing tips, and respond to the submissions that children are invited to send in. All activity is shared through the Our Stories Facebook page and families can catch up on the vlogs and activities online.
Today’s research showed that children and young people said that writing helped them process and cope with feelings of worry, anxiety and uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, 2 in 5 (41%) children and young people said that writing makes them feel better and 1 in 4 (25%) said that writing helps them when they feel sad that they can’t see friends and family.
This has been reflected by participants in the Your Stories project. Illustrator Simon Whittaker, from House of Deadleg illustration, has been bringing characters to life with digital illustrations of the young people’s ideas and sketches. Toby, aged nine from Wheatcroft School in Scarborough, has been taking part in the activities every day and was “blown away” to see professional illustration of his character ‘Toby Adventurinium’ and his setting ‘Tobytown’. Toby's mum said:
"Seeing Toby’s realisation that his ideas are good ideas has been a truly magical thing."
Liz Dyer, Manager of Our Stories, said: “We’ve had some amazing submissions from young people over the past three weeks. We’ve seen motorbike-riding genies, underground gold mines, brand new scientific elements and face-snatching baddies. Children across the North Yorkshire Coast have shown they have amazing imaginations and we’re delighted we’ve been able to give them a voice during lockdown. Keep sending your entries in so that you can be part of the giant story our professional author and illustrator will create at the end of the project!”
Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, said: “It is encouraging that so many children and young people are turning to creative writing as a way to make sense of the extraordinary times we are living in. Giving young people the freedom to explore their thoughts and feelings through creative writing can unlock their imaginations, aspirations and academic potential, while providing them with an essential coping mechanism for difficult situations and emotions.”
To get involved with Your Stories, families can: