WRITE FOR KIDS
Writing for Children and Young Adults: Tips for Crafting Age-Appropriate Narratives
Age-appropriate writing is the practice of writing content designed for a certain audience. The term is often applied to writing or selecting existing reading materials for children. For example, teachers must make sure classroom learning materials are age-appropriate. If you are a writer, you also have a certain obligation to make sure your narratives are appropriate for your audience, especially if that audience is made up of impressionable children. Here are some tips to help you create age-appropriate narratives.
Select a Type of Book to Create and Know the Audience Age Range
Just as children are all different, books for children also vary. However, most books for kids fall into one of six categories. You need to understand each category so you can select the one most suited to your desired audience. Those categories are:
Each book type has readily available style and length guidelines. You can use those guidelines to help you craft an appropriate story. For example, board books usually consist of less than 100 words. They rely more heavily on colorful images that babies and toddlers will enjoy. Often, they feature objects and animals. Those books help children start to learn to recognize items in the world around them. Young adult books, on the other hand, average approximately 10,000-12,000 words and can contain up to 20,000 words.
Question Some Children in Your Target Age Range
An enjoyable story for children requires an interesting initial concept. Start by coming up with a unique idea for your narrative. You may think you can come up with an idea on your own, but your idea may not interest children. Talk to children in your target age range to see what subjects they like. The more children you can question, the better. Collecting a range of answers can help you identify common themes enjoyed by the majority of kids.
Immerse Yourself in Children’s Literature
Before you write a children’s book, read several. Make sure the books you read are within your target age range. Reading books written for your target audience will help you familiarize yourself with the necessary reading level. It may also give you a sense of the story elements children of that age prefer.
Select a Genre for Your Narrative
Selecting the genre on which you want to focus is a necessary first step. Every story fits into some type of genre, also known as a category. Some genres, such as science fiction, are most appropriate for older children. Others might appeal more to younger kids. Once you have a genre in mind, you can start working on the story itself.
Develop a Plot Concept
If you have questioned some children in the target age range, you now have a list of general subjects that interest them. Look within those categories for a story concept. You might also find plot inspiration from your own home life, television, movies, or books. It all depends on the subject you have chosen. Visiting a certain location may also help. For example, a trip to the nearest beach might give you an idea for a beach-based story.
Create Your Characters Carefully
Character development is an essential part of children’s book creation. Children love characters to whom they can relate. Those characters need interesting characteristics. Most experts recommend they be either the same age as the target readers or a year or two older. Children often like picturing themselves in the places of the characters in their books. Also, keep in mind older children usually like characters to have backstories. Younger children tend to care only about the current story.
Maintain Age-Appropriate Balance When Describing Settings
Describing settings can be a difficult aspect of writing literature for children. It is important to make the setting interesting, but too much time spent on setting descriptions can bore young readers. A good rule for picture books geared toward young readers is to allow the pictures to provide most of the setting description. Keep written setting descriptors minimal. However, you must focus more on describing settings when writing chapter books for older children. Clear setting descriptions can help readers immerse themselves in the story you are telling.
Implement Age-Appropriate Literary Techniques
Certain common literary techniques are highly attractive to children of particular age ranges. For example, young children often enjoy reading books containing rhymes. Alliteration, or sound repetition, is also popular with young children. Older children tend to like elements of humor. They also enjoy exciting plot lines, such as those in the Harry Potter books.
When you think your first draft is ready, get some feedback on your story from other adults you trust. Choose adults who are parents or have experience reading to (or writing for) children. They can help you make sure the story you have written is fully age appropriate. After you get that adult feedback, select a few children in your target age range. Have them read the story and give you their impressions of it. Use that feedback to make revisions before you start the final publishing process.