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News story

New research reveals only 1 in 3 children enjoy writing in their free time

01 Jun 2023

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Today we have published new research indicating that children’s writing has reached a crisis point, with writing enjoyment levels at one of the lowest levels we’ve seen since we began recording this data in 2010.

The research found that:

  • Only 1 in 3 children (34.6%) in 2023 say they enjoy writing in their free time.
  • While 3 in 4 (72%) children enjoy writing when they start school, this drops to only 1 in 4 (26.4%) by the age of 16.
  • This is alongside a rise in children leaving primary school without reaching the expected levels in writing: 1 in 3 (31%) in 2022 vs 1 in 5 (22%) in 2019

Our previous research found that there is a clear link between writing for enjoyment and writing attainment, with children who enjoy writing “very much” seven times more likely to write above the expected level.

“Writing for enjoyment needs to be encouraged, protected, and nurtured as a priority. The reduced scope for creative writing in the curriculum may be affecting children’s motivation and enjoyment for writing, which can, in turn, affect their confidence and literacy skills. We need to prioritise writing for enjoyment and recognise its important in helping children express their thoughts and feelings as they make sense of the world around them.”

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive at the National Literacy Trust

To encourage writing for enjoyment, the National Literacy Trust run several different programmes, each tapping into different motivations for writing – creativity, expressing feelings, wellbeing – and help us support the writing of as many children as possible. Many of our programmes are available to all schools, though some are created and delivered specifically for schools in areas of low literacy.

Our Young Writers Programme collaborates with world-famous partners, like Wicked the Musical, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap theatre show, and the BBC’s 500 Words competition, as well as Writing for Wellbeing clubs and Young Poets workshops. It offers a range of resources and evidence-based writing projects and support for schools exploring genres as diverse as mystery, comics and journalistic writing to inspire and engage children with creative writing.

We hope that through our programmatic writing projects like Young Writers that we can spark a love of writing in more children across the country that they will take with them into their futures for success at school, in employment and in life.

Read the full research report Find out more about the Young Writers Programme
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