Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Writing for Children Series - Part Two

Writing for Different Age Groups
Writing for children sounds like lots of fun ... and it can be ... but there are basic rules and guidelines that need to be followed for success. Because it’s such a diverse market, the industry has divided it into several age groups. These categories are fairly loose and overlap in areas, so use them as a guide, not as rigid divisions.

Early Childhood 0-5 Years
It’s never too early to introduce a child to the joys of reading and even babies can be entertained with cloth and board books. Picture books are most popular in this age group and there is a definite technique to putting one together. The most common format is a 32 page book that allows 24 pages for the actual story and illustrations. Ideally, these will be twelve double-spreads and each should present a stage in the story. Most publishing houses have their own illustrators and will accept text on its own merit. Never underestimate a young child’s capacity for understanding. The wording in these books must be polished, coherent, interesting and able to bear repetition.

Beginner Readers 5-7 Years
Stories for beginner readers are produced with large print and illustrated on each page. They are a step up from picture books and include the early reading schemes used in schools. There is a subtle shift, in that the text begins to overshadow the illustrations, and varies from a few words per page to a total of 2000 for the book.

Young Fiction for Confident Readers 7-10
This is a transition stage between learning to read confidently and being able to finish a book with around 100 pages. Illustrations are still important but may be simpler line drawings as opposed to full colour pictures. The books are often divided into six or more chapters, presenting the story in manageable chunks for young readers.

Chapter Books 9-12
These are an expansion on the above category, with less in the way of illustrations, and more in the way of chapters and length.

Older Children and Teenage Fiction 12-18
Children who are prolific readers at this age will normally have preferences for certain genres. As a result, there is a wider cross section available for this age group. It’s like a junior version of adult novels and includes mystery, thrillers, adventure, fantasy, school and many more. Unlike adult novels, the protagonist is often a teenager or young person and the first person point of view is common.

If you’re interested in writing for children, now may be a good time to pay another visit to your local library. Choose a selection of books in the age group you favor and analyze the content, illustrations and length. Look at the titles and covers and try and work out what has made them a success.

Next week we’ll be looking at the themes used in children’s writing. This will be great fun so come back and have a look next Wednesday.

Read Writing for Children Series - Part 1

More articles on Writing for Children:

Interview with best-selling children's book author Bob Hartman

Writing Children's Books: Not Just the Facts, Ma'am

Have You Read a Toddler's Book Lately?

Read to Me: Create Memories with Books

Tween Fiction: Disaster or Delight?

Early Reader Books keep kids interested in learning

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Read some of her work at Suite 101 , Take Root and Write and Faithwriters.

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