Children’s books are short, sure, but writing a good children’s book is only simple at the surface level. Some of our most beloved and widespread quotes actually originate from children’s books. “Promise me you’ll remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think” is a Winnie the Pooh quote. “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you.” That one is from The Velveteen Rabbit. Made for kids or not, these sentiments have resonance for everyone. So...how do you do that as a writer, exactly?
What Age Group Are You Writing For?
First, you need to decide what age group you want to write for. Not every children’s book is created the same. A board book, for example, is generally for newborns through toddler age and most likely will be read to the child by the parent or other adult, whereas a young reader for a first grader will contain a lot of sight words. After you’ve decided on an age group, you need to get researching. What vocabulary will that age group be most comfortable with? Writing for children is a delicate balance between challenging the young reader but also making sure they understand enough to stay engaged. Aim for simple vocab with more advanced words sprinkled in.
What Are You Writing About?
Another thing to keep in mind is what you’re writing about. What themes are you portraying? What does your main character look/talk/act like? A main character should be relatable, yes, but they also need to seem real. Anyone who spends time around kids knows how quickly they will point out anything that’s different or seems wrong. Further, will this character learn a lesson in this book or simply go on a fantastic adventure? The conflict, climax, etc. should be upfront and the characters’ driving force should be to solve whatever problem your book presents.
Is Your Story Illustration-Friendly?
Children are often visual learners. If they are of the age where they’re not yet able to read, illustrations are what will draw them to choose a book. If they are able to read, illustrations still play a major role in interest and impact, and the majority of children’s books will also be picture books. Hence, you need to make sure your writing is illustration friendly. Consider what an illustrator will be able to do with your story and try to insert settings, circumstances, and images into your writing that will be visually appealing and attractive to little kids.
While writing for kids is very rarely easy, it is also incredibly rewarding to know that your work is enriching the lives of children as they discover the world around them and plunge into their first books. Whether your character is a clumsy cat or a powerful princess, go forth and enchant!
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