Our new research reveals record low levels of writing enjoyment among children and young people this National Writing Day

23 Jun 2021
Writing in notebook on lap

Today, on National Writing Day, we publish new research which finds that just 1 in 3 (34.5%) children and young people said they enjoy writing.

This is down from 39.8% last year and represents the lowest level of writing enjoyment recorded by the charity since the question was first posed to 9-to-18-year-olds in 2010.

Many children still do enjoy writing in their free time, especially girls: 2 in 5 girls said this compared to 1 in 4 boys. While a decline in writing enjoyment was reported across all respondents, boys from disadvantaged backgrounds experienced a particularly pronounced decrease with a drop of 9.3 percentage points in the last year.

The survey of 42,502 children and young people in the UK also recorded the lowest daily writing rate in the last 11 years.

Only 1 in 7 (15.2%) children and young people said they write something in their spare time every day. This is down 6.3 percentage points from 2020, when over 1 in 5 (21.5%) respondents wrote daily.

However, the research also showed an increase in certain formats being written digitally, with more children and young people writing song lyrics, diary entries, reviews, stories and poems on screen compared to 2019. Many children say they write for social connection – whether that’s text messaging or communicating within games.

Writing has also supported children’s wellbeing in the last year.

A quarter (23%) of children who write in their free time at least once a month said they write because it makes them feel happy or more confident and 3 in 10 (30.3%) said it helps them relax.

In addition, 50% of these writers do so because it helps them feel creative and like they can express their ideas, and 1 in 7 (14.3%) said they write because it makes them feel connected to the world.

“The last year has been extraordinarily turbulent and the record lows in writing and writing enjoyment unfortunately come as little surprise. I’m cheered to see many children, particularly girls, are still finding pleasure in writing and I hope next year’s data shows a marked uptick across children and young people from all backgrounds. We know that creative writing has the wonderful ability to boost children and young people’s wellbeing and help them feel connected to the world. It presents a huge opportunity for teachers, educators and parents to encourage writing in all its forms, from putting pen to paper to in-app messaging. It all has a proven benefit to the way a child feels. After such a difficult sixteen months, encouraging positive behaviours around writing is more important than ever.”

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust

The research can be found at: literacytrust.org.uk/research-services/research-reports/children-and-young-peoples-writing-in-2021

The National Literacy Trust offer both free and paid-for specialised training opportunities, targeted interventions and a wide range of programmes and resources to equip teachers and practitioners with the best strategies and tools for enabling children to build on the skills they have, move forward from recent challenges and catch-up on learning.

Projects such as My Dear New Friend, Young Poets, and our Reading Challenges encourage children to write creatively and for fun.

To explore the National Literacy Trust's Education Recovery area, visit: literacytrust.org.uk/education-recovery/