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Lyrics in focus

Added 29 Jan 2024


Children and young people are frequently exposed to song lyrics, from the music they listen to, the songs sung in school assemblies or places of worship, to streaming platforms. Indeed, song lyrics may be a valuable tool for learning a range of literacy skills, from listening to reading and writing (e.g., Miguez, 2017).

This report highlights insight from 64,066 children and young people aged 8 to 18 across the UK, about their reading and writing of song lyrics. The report also reviews evaluation findings from eight participants of a lyric-writing workshop, as part of New Chapters, delivered in Young Offender Institutions.

The report shows that song lyrics may provide a valuable gateway into literacy for many children and young people. Lyrics were a particularly popular reading format, especially on screen; even for those who did not enjoy reading, many told us that they read lyrics. Reading song lyrics could therefore play a role in engaging reluctant readers with literacy. As we look to encourage a new generation of readers, writers and listeners, song lyrics should not be discounted as a legitimate and engaging format.

Key findings include:

  • 3 in 4 (73.6%) 8 to 18’s told us in 2023 that they read lyrics on paper and/or screen at least once a month.
    • Reading song lyrics was very popular among children and young people, regardless of their demographic group.
  • 3 in 10 (31.8%) children and young people aged 8 to 18 told us in 2023 they wrote song lyrics on paper and/or screen at least once a month.
  • While there were few demographic differences in lyric reading, there were marked differences in lyric writing.
    • A higher percentage of girls (36.3%) told us that they wrote lyrics in their spare time than boys (26.6%).
    • Half (48.6%) of 8 to 11-year-olds told us that they write lyrics, the largest percentage across age groups, compared with 13.7% of 16 to 18-year-olds.
    • Nearly 2 in 5 (38.3%) of those who received FSMs told us that they wrote lyrics at least once a month, compared with only 3 in 10 (29.1%) of those who didn’t receive FSMs.

Engaging reluctant readers and writers with lyrics

  • Despite telling us they didn’t enjoy reading, almost 3 in 4 (72.5%) 8 to 18-year-old reluctant readers told us they read lyrics at least once a month.
  • Song lyrics were the only reading format that was enjoyed similarly by those who did (75.0%) and did not (72.5%) enjoy reading.
    • There were much larger differences when looking at other reading formats. For example, 52.2% of those who didn’t enjoy reading told us that they read fiction, compared with 86.1% of those who enjoyed reading.[AC1]

Supporting project participants with lyrics

  • Feedback from participants of our New Chapters lyric-writing workshop suggested that song lyrics could be used to increase confidence and self-belief:
    • 7 out of 8 participants told us that taking part in a creative writing workshop tailored towards writing lyrics, made them feel better in general and inspired them to think about their future more.
    • All 8 participants told us that they were inspired to tell their own stories and left with an improved understanding of songwriting and the music industry.
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