I read about some research from the National Literacy Trust this week, which revealed some positive figures about children’s increasing love of reading. The trust surveyed 30,000 eight- to 16-year-olds and found that 53% of young people enjoy reading either “very much” or “quite a lot”. This surpasses the highest level of reading enjoyment the charity recorded eight years ago.
Only 10% of those surveyed said they didn’t enjoy reading at all, which is the lowest level recorded in four years. The gender gap in reading has decreased slightly, but is still significant, with more girls than boys saying that they enjoy reading very much (29% versus 20%).
So things are looking up, it seems, when it comes to the popularity of reading… but is this also the case with writing? I recently spoke to a friend who is a primary school teacher, and she told me that one of her major struggles in the classroom is getting children to enjoy creative writing. “I just don’t understand why they don’t like it,” she said, “You can literally write anything you want. What’s not to like?”
Well, what indeed? The first thing that occurred to me is that kids are increasingly bombarded with a world of exciting visual media so they would much rather play an interactive game than sit down and write something emotional or descriptive. So what could be done to improve the situation? Here are some ideas that we thought of:
Changing the order – The usual order of creation is a book followed by its film adaptation. But what if this was presented to kids the other way around? A fragment of a film could be played to them in the classroom, almost as a teaser, and they would be encouraged to find out the rest of the story by reading it. Then a lesson could focus on how well or badly, the film interpreted the written story.
Writing about experiences – We read on The Guardian Teacher network about a teacher who took her children out of the classroom so that they could experience a given event, and then immediately write down the emotions that they felt e.g. taking part in a race, trying new food…
A dramatic representation – This is the reverse of writing about experiences. It’s a case of writing a story with the aim of later bringing it to life on stage, or in front of the rest of the class. It sounds simple, but many children are likely to be put off creative writing if they think it’s just about getting a grade from their teacher.
Do you have any other ideas?