World Cup activities launched in response to decline in children’s writing enjoyment

31 May 2018
Writing - Young City Poets

Children and young people’s enjoyment of writing and how often they write in their spare time is in decline, according to a new report we have published today. Compared to last year, the number of children who enjoy writing very much has fallen 9% whilst daily writing levels have declined 8%.

In an effort to stem this decline and inspire children’s writing both inside and outside  the classroom, the charity has launched a series of writing activities that harness the growing excitement around the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The report, Children and young people’s writing in 2017/18, is based on a survey of 47,786 children and young people aged 8 to 18 in the UK. The report found that, in 2018:

  • Only half of children and young people enjoy writing very much or quite a lot (49.2%)
  • Fewer than 1 child in 5 writes something that isn’t for school on a daily basis (17.3%)
  • More girls than boys enjoy writing (57.4% vs 40.9%) and write daily (19.9% vs 14.3%)
  • Younger children enjoy writing almost twice as much as their older peers (68.5% of 8 to 11-year-olds, 46.5% of 11 to 14-year-olds, 36% of 14 to 16-year-olds)

For the past 20 years, we have used the power of football and major sporting events to inspire children’s writing – with hugely positive results. After taking part in a writing competition around the Women’s FA Cup last year, teachers said their students’ enthusiasm for writing (80%), motivation to write (76%) and confidence in writing (68%) had improved.

The National Literacy Trust is therefore using the excitement surrounding the 2018 FIFA World Cup as an opportunity to launch a series of football-themed activities aimed at inspiring more children and young people to get writing in the classroom and outside of it:

  • World Cup Football School: we have teamed up with Walker Books to create free primary school teaching resources, lesson ideas, writing tips, posters and bookmarks based on the popular Football School book series – with a World Cup twist
  • Daily World Cup story: children’s author Tom Palmer will be writing a daily story during the World Cup following events on and off the pitch as they happen. The chapters can be read in class or at home and include a writing challenge at the end
  • Family activities: the charity has created a bundle of World Cup writing activities, top tips and book lists to help parents support their child’s literacy. Lots of football books are also up for grabs in a World Cup giveaway

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, said: “With only two weeks to go, we want to use the growing excitement and energy surrounding the World Cup to get more children writing. Our activities will show that you don’t need to be a football fanatic to take inspiration from the World Cup, with the bringing together of so many wonderful nations, each with their own histories, cultures and traditions.

“This year’s National Writing Day also provides a focal point for children to write about something they are passionate about. We hope our footballing activities help to spark children’s imaginations and foster a love of writing that will not only benefit their school work, but also boost their confidence, self-esteem and well-being. Dare I say it… Come on England!”

Dan Freedman, author of the popular Jamie Johnson children’s football book and TV series, said: "I've been football-mad ever since I can remember, but I haven't always been keen on writing. When I was at school, I pretty much refused to read or write anything at all. But if I had been given a football novel at the time, I would have read it from cover to cover; or if a journalist had come into my school to tell me about all the amazing sports stars they'd met and all the brilliant news articles they'd written, I wouldn't have thought twice about picking up a pen and following in their footsteps. As a journalist and a children's author, I try to bring my experiences of combining football and writing into the classroom to inspire a whole new generation of writers. With the World Cup around the corner, it's a great opportunity for teachers and parents to do the same."

Tom Palmer, popular children’s football author, gives his top writing tips for children: “The World Cup lets me to combine my two greatest passions – football and writing. The tournament never fails to deliver triumphs, tears and tantrums – all of which can be great inspiration for writing, whether you choose to write a diary, a match report, a comic book strip or a story. Start by putting yourself in the story; you could be a fan, a player, a manager, a referee, a journalist, a mascot or even a match ball! Then think about what your character might be feeling; are they excited or nervous, overjoyed or outraged? I know that a blank page can be quite scary, so why not say your story out loud first? You could record what you say, listen back to it, then kick start your writing. The most important thing about writing is having fun. There’s no limit to where your imagination – and the World Cup! – can take you.”

These activities are also released for the run up to this year’s National Writing Day, an annual celebration designed to inspire people across the UK to get writing on Wednesday 27 June. The National Literacy Trust is one of 35 national literacy partners working towards the day, which is coordinated by First Story.