Writing children’s stories may seem a disproportionately large subject for the amount of words that are written in them, but they are a very popular genre.
The following questions are meant to act as a simple guideline to get you started, or to keep you on track:
What do you want to say? It is vital that you work this out first. What is the kernel of your intended message? Remember: Keep it simple!
Although older children can obviously understand more complicated themes, you should be able to summarise your theme in one sentence.
Who do you want to say it to? Children are not miniature adults with mature understanding in small bodies. Instead, they are learning about the very rudiments of life.
The younger the child, the more likely it is that it is completely new; rather than just being a new facet of something with which they are already familiar.
From age about three to seven, many children are able to understand more difficult words, concepts and themes than they are actually able to read about, so there are two types of books available here.
- One is the ‘early reader’, and it must have an age-appropriate vocabulary and format.
- The second category is the books read to children by adults (or older children); exploring more difficult concepts and themes, and obviously with more challenging vocabulary.
Why do you want to say it?
If preaching a moral message is your aim, be careful! Preaching is not well received at any age; and since adults will usually be buying the books for young readers, a ‘moralising’ book is likely to be left on the shelf, if it is published at all.
A better viewpoint would be to think of yourself as standing beside the child, helping him or her to understand something new or more about this world.
How are you going to say it?
This question explores the many ways that books can be structured, the characters that will be brought into the story (even non-fiction must have somebody actually doing something), plot, and illustrations, etc. There is obviously a lot involved in this section, which is too much for this short article to cover.
The age of the child obviously determines the level of vocabulary you should use, and there are guidelines available to help you work this out for each age or reading ability level.
However, as some clever writers like Dr. Seuss have demonstrated, you don’t have to always be limited to simple one-syllable words.
Immersing yourself in the genre is probably going to help you most of all. If you don’t have any little listeners close at hand, consider helping early or slow readers at a local school, or reading books to children at a library.
Note: This is a repeat blog.