As the beautiful saying goes, children are like water – bottle them up and they stagnate, let them run wild and they make a mess, but guide them and they bring life to everything they touch.
Undoubtedly, books are one of the guiding forces in a child’s life. Writing for children is an exhilarating experience, which needs a lot of imagination, insightfulness and an optimistic outlook.
Sid Fleischman said, “The books we enjoy as children stay with us forever — they have a special impact. Paragraph after paragraph and page after page, the author must deliver his or her best work.”
The writing can be informative, hilarious, mysterious or romantic. Just remember when you write for children, don’t write for children but write for the child in you.
Know your audience
4-6 year olds
Children in this age bracket would rather enjoy colourful stories with lots of illustrations –basically material that can call upon most if not all five senses.
6-8 year olds
These children are likely to prefer folk and fairy tales, short and sweet stories with happy endings and of course moral stories in which the message is built-in.
8-12 year olds
They can be taken as a more curious and inquisitive bundle. So, one can go for suspense, mystery, fantasy and horror. At this stage kids get distracted very easily. So, the story should be gripping and captivating.
Finally, the 13-16 year olds
Ah! The turbulent teens. This audience is the trickiest; with all the teenage turmoil they need something really worth their while. They can afford to read something with a serious plot along with romance, humour, sorrow, fantasy or science fiction.
Whatever the age group may be, just remember one thing: you have to get into their shoes. When one decides to write for children, the best way is to relive one’s own childhood experiences – emotional to hurtful to scary to beautiful.
In an interview, Sandra Markel, child author, advised aspiring authors saying, “Write!! But also periodically read out loud and listen with a reader’s ear. Always remember, writing began as a way to record what people were saying. It is still the same.” Many authors have claimed that their own children have helped them in writing for a child audience.
Let’s summarise all this into four basic points….
Selection of the theme: Once the theme is decided, one should portray real children as characters of the same age group. Children tend to relate to them faster, though smaller ones also love fictitious characters with human nature.
Language of the story: When we write for children, we should use more active verbs and most of it should be in dialogue form. The language should be comprehensible and uncomplicated. Though, inclusion of new words is a must, they should be in such a way that it makes sense within the context.
Pace of the story: Keep the pace of the story at medium levels as anything too fast or too slow could hamper a child’s imagination. The story build-up should facilitate the child’s involvement as if he/she were part of the story.
End of the story: The conclusion should tie all or any loose ends together.
A child’s mind is like clay, it can be moulded into any form. As Astrid Lindgren, a famous child author says “I don’t want to write for adults. I want to write for readers who can perform miracles. Only children can perform miracles when they read.”
As writers it’s the least we can do for the gems of the future. Isn’t it?