Can laughter close the reading and writing gender gap?

Jul 2016
Reading and writing comedy is particularly popular with boys.

The latest research by our CSR partners The National Literacy Trust indicates comedy could play an important role in engaging children, particularly boys, in reading and writing for enjoyment.

With the growth of comedy in film and television and the popularity of celebrity comedians, this is beginning to influence the literary genres young people are choosing to read, with more young people than ever choosing to read comedy outside of the classroom.

Responses from 24,972 eight to 16-year-olds show that more children read comedy at least once a month during their leisure time than poems, non-fiction, or newspapers.

The survey shows that reading and writing comedy is particularly popular with boys. Despite reading significantly less than girls overall, boys read more comedy outside the classroom every month than girls (38.4% compared to 29.1%). Boys are also twice as likely as girls to put pen to paper and write comedy outside class (16.5% v 9.9%).

This begs the question, will a greater emphasis on comedy help close this gender gap?

Comedy writing is all about using words and language to make people laugh. It's a form of communication which encourages smiles, happiness and general good feeling. Comedy writing is fun and easy and can take the form of stand up, sketches or, if you're a more visual person, funny captions for images.

We have looked at some of the basics to help get your child's inner comedian up and running:

Inspiration is everywhere
Nothing is funnier than real life, and the more relatable the content is, the better. As a starting point have your child consider experiences, places, and people in their own life which they could use as inspirational material. Get them to tell you about something that happened to them which they found funny, and then write the story down.

Write honestly
Encourage your child to be true to themselves and write from the heart. By all means they may look to their favourite comedian or sitcom for ideas, however, they shouldn't try to copy or emulate them, but instead come up with fresh material. If they write jokes which they themselves find funny the scene/script will flow better, come across more natural and generate the greater, bigger laughs.

Find a quiet place to focus
Find a place together where they can sit down and focus on the task at hand. Make sure the area you choose is far away from distractions, such as a TV, and is quiet and comfortable.

Attention to detail
Characterisation is key. The audience needs to completely know and understand the characters in order to be fully engaged with them; laughing with them or at them. Constructing their background, likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses will help breathe life in to the characters. Likewise when setting the scene focus on the specifics of a situation, the details of their activity to make it as realistic as possible. As the saying goes: 'the devil's in the details.'Comedy writing can boost a child's confidence, foster creativity, improve their communication skills, and who knows, perhaps nurture a hidden talent!