Getting boys to write
New research published by the National Literacy Trust reveals that boys are half as likely to enjoy writing as girls and almost a third never or rarely write outside of class. The Trust is calling for parents to encourage their children, particularly boys, to write more, and broadcaster and children’s author Simon Mayo is backing the campaign. Simon, author of the Itch series, whose protagonist is a 14-year-old boy obsessed with science and on a mission to collect all the elements in the periodic table, says:
“It’s so important for boys to find a topic that interests them before they pick up a pen and start writing. I wasn’t particularly interested in writing at school, I only started to enjoy it later on, but I was hampered by being fantastically slow. When I started writing the first Itch book, it was as a short story for my son, but then I was completely captivated by the plot and characters, and the story took over. If you can grab a child’s imagination in the same way, getting them to write about a hobby or something they really enjoy doing then the whole story writing world is open to them.”
Reading and writing go hand-in-hand and it is through writing that children learn to formulate thoughts and improve their creativity and thinking skills. Here are some tips that parents can use to encourage a reluctant writer:
- Choose subjects your child loves, whether that is dinosaurs, superheroes, shopping or football. Your child will write best if they write about topics that they know about or that are hobbies.
- Laying a story out visually can help. Work with your child to develop a “story map” where you draw pictures of key elements of a story in a line and build a piece of writing from there. Boys are often visual learners so this can work particularly well for them.
- Thinking about character and location before beginnings, middle and ends can help. Start by asking ‘Where is the story going to happen? In space? In the desert?’ and ‘Who is your main character? Who are the other characters?’
- Ask your child to think “what if?” to various scenarios. What if a film you have watched together had ended differently or the book characters met in a different country? Giving a child the freedom to adapt a story will make it fun.
- Keep a box of interesting objects to weave into a story, or get things started with an interesting first or last line. Playing verbal games such as ‘Luckily, Unluckily’, (in which you make up a story by starting alternative lines with the word luckily or unluckily) can also be good practice for thinking of plot twists!
- It’s not just about fiction; boys in particular often enjoy reading non-fiction so may well prefer writing other genres. Your child may prefer to draw a comic strip, write a report of a football match they have watched or a computer game they have played, or make up a recipe instead of writing a traditional story.
- Why not put together a range of writing types to make your own family book, magazine or newspaper?
- Look out for children’s writing competitions – you can often find one on the National Literacy Trust website.
- Be appreciative of the time and effort your child has put in to a piece of writing; if they are having fun and feel good about their work they will be more likely to persevere.