Writing Children’s Literature
September 25, 2014
by: Anna Gray
As a future elementary reading teacher, children’s books excite me. The world of children’s literature can be fascinating and carefree, but also plays a huge role in shaping the minds of young readers. Exposing a child to good literature early on can sculpt the way they view books for the rest of their lives. So, what about writing children’s literature? There are quite a few things to keep in mind when delving into this rather difficult task. Character building, general structure, and the moral of a story are all things that can make or break a picture book.
Character building is important in children’s literature because the reader will often connect with characters on a deeper level. Whether the characters are humans, talking animals, or inanimate objects, the reader will find ways to link themselves and make comparisons. Young children are still forming their own personalities, so build characters with that in mind. Generally speaking, if you are bored with a character, the reader will be, too. If a character is doing a lot of talking to himself, he needs a friend. Most importantly, characters in children’s literature should set a positive model as to how real life relationships between people should look. In The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carl, we see the transformation from caterpillar, to beautiful grown up butterfly. No, the readers of this book are not caterpillars, but with the wild and captivating imaginations children can have, they can think of themselves as anything they want to be. With this book they have a demonstration of how change takes place, and the realization that these changes will happen to them, too.
The structure of a children’s book is an obvious, but necessary aspect to consider. Generally, children’s books should be kept rather simplistic. As new members of the literary world, young children should be able to read books without being distracted by long sentences, difficult vocabulary, and over use of dialogue. A few good tips to keep in mind are as follows. First, if you feel a sentence is unnecessary, trash it. Why confuse the reader with extra “fluff” in the story? If you can replace three words with just one, do it. Finally, if dialogue takes up an entire page, cut it down. Dialogue in books can be difficult for new readers to grasp. Getting through the words on a page can be struggle enough, let alone trying to keep track of who is speaking. With dialogue kept at a minimum, the novice reader will be able to easily comprehend concepts.
Possibly the most significant aspect in children’s literature to be aware of is the moral of the story. What life lesson will be learned? This can be a daunting task to accomplish. Morals in children’s books are constantly repeated. The key is teaching these morals in unique and different ways that will resonate with a variety of personalities. Ideally, it is best to find a message to tell that no one has yet thought of. To do so, think about problems you go through and conquer in your everyday life. Often, even adult like issues can be morphed into something to teach children. Topics such a death, family issues, and bullies are all delicate points, but also great platforms for moral lessons. They may not be the most amusing topics to write about, but are nonetheless important in any child’s life. I’ll bet you didn’t know that If You Give a Mouse a Cookie was a tale about greed, did you? This is thanks to the brilliance of author, Laura Numeroff. She was able to take a serious topic and spin it into a goofy book about a mouse and a cookie. This mouse got a cookie, and from there wanted more and more. Just keep in mind that, when a child finishes the last page of a book, they should close it with a new life lesson to take into the world.
All in all, children’s literature is a wonderful genre with which to work. The world of children’s literature is full of imagination, innocence, and excitement. Anyone who loves kids can easily become a natural at writing in children’s literature. A mix of passion and creativity is a great place to start. Don’t forget the simple logistics behind children’s literature, and your pen will soar.