We don’t generally grade books for adults by age. But in children’s books the age group really matters. Writing for a 5-year-old is not the same as writing for a 12-year-old. Children’s experience and understanding grow and develop all the time.
● their vocabulary: the words they know
● the ideas they can grasp
● the level of complexity they can cope with
● their interests and preoccupations
● their feelings and emotions
● their experience of life
● their likes and dislikes, the things that amuse and entertain them
A writer needs to know this, to study the particular age group he or she has chosen. Be prepared to eavesdrop!
● How do they speak?
● What topics concern them most?
● How do they look at the world? (It won’t be the way you view it.)
Many books have been written about child development. Dip into one of them. Many studies have been made of vocabulary—the words (and concepts) it is best to use for different age groups. Take note of these things if you want your readers to understand and enjoy what you are writing. They won’t read what is way beyond their grasp, but you don’t have to stick to word lists with a strictly limited vocabulary. A little bit of stretching can be good.
This article was excerpted from MAI’s booklet, Effective Story Writing for Children, by Pat Alexander and Larry Brook. The booklet offers several practical tips for mastering the important craft of children’s writing. Check out resources on writing and publishing on MAI’s website.
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