Report: 60% of boys hate writing

NLT: children’s attitudes to writing are improving, yet one boy in three never or rarely picks up a pen outside class

New research published recently by the National Literacy Trust reveals that almost a third of boys never or rarely write for fun outside class (31%), while almost a third of girls write daily (32%). This trend could be having a negative impact on their attainment at school, warns the charity. Their findings show that young people who write for fun outside school daily are four times more likely to be writing above the expected level for their age compared with young people who never write outside school (27% vs. 7%). But six out of ten boys say they don’t enjoy writing at all. 

The National Literacy Trust’s fourth annual literacy survey of almost 30,000 8-16-year-olds shows that boys are much less enthusiastic about writing than girls. The charity’s report Children and Young People’s Writing in 2013, outlines that: 

  • Boys are twice as likely as girls to say that they don’t enjoy writing at all (19.2% vs. 8.2%)
  • Almost a third of girls (32%) write daily outside the classroom, compared with only 21% of boys
  • Girls write more widely across a variety of formats, for example social networking sites (56% vs. 50%), text messages (81% vs 71%) and lyrics (38% vs 16%). They also tweet more than boys (28% vs. 25%)
  • One in five boys (19%) admit that “I would be embarrassed if friends saw me write,” compared with one in eight girls (12%)
  • Fewer boys than girls agree that writing is cool (27% vs 37%)
  • More boys than girls recognise the importance of writing for their future job prospects, as 61% agree that if they are good at writing they’ll get a better job, compared to 57% of girls

The National Literacy Trust report also shows that boys’ attitudes to writing worsen as they grow older. Only three in ten boys (29%) at Key Stage 4 say that they enjoy writing, nearly half the number of those who enjoy it at Key stage 2 (47%). 

The gender gap in daily writing in 2013 remains just as wide as it was in 2010, (10.8 percentage point difference) as does the gender gap in writing enjoyment (17.3 percentage point difference).  

To help schools to tackle the stagnant and wide writing gender gap, the National Literacy Trust has launched their first professional development programme in their new Outstanding Literacy Leadership series. “Improving boys’ literacy: strategies for success” trains Specialist Literacy Leaders to use an evidence-based approach to improving literacy outcomes for boys. 

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, says:“Our research shows that we must focus on increasing boys’ frequency and enjoyment of writing if we are to support them to succeed at school and throughout their future lives. It’s down to teachers as well as parents to nurture a love of writing in boys and help to develop positive attitudes towards it early on in their education.

“We’re delighted to offer a new CPD programme to help teachers close the gender literacy gap and we hope they will reap the benefits of our new approach. Unless we address it, too many boys will struggle at school and not go on to fulfil their full potential in life.”

W: www.literacytrust.org.uk/research 
E: professional.development@literacytrust.org.uk

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