Children's Writing

Learn to write picture books, junior fiction, and young adult novels. Discover key differences between genres, the secrets of structure and planning, how to write realistic dialogue, and more. Excellent for aspiring and long term writers alike.

Course CodeBWR104
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Write your first children's book

Drawing on writing craft and child psychology, this course will will help you write strong, authentic stories that will speak to your readers.

As you work through this course, you'll analyse current trends and successful children's books, develop one or more stories, and workshop existing material.

This course is excellent for aspiring writers seeking to build confidence in their abilities, or improve their fundamentals.  It will also help more experienced writers develop a deeper understanding of genre, modes, and writing types, or an introduction to the theoretical underpinnings of creative writing.

You will study:

  • short stories
  • non-fiction for children
  • picture books
  • novels
  • revision processes

Student Comment:
"I never considered children’s writing very stimulating, until now". — Janine

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Understanding Children
    • Children's thoughts
    • Children's needs
    • Child development.
  2. Overview of Children’s Writing
    • Categories (fiction & non fiction)
    • Understanding the market place
    • Analyse and understand what is needed for the different categories, etc.
  3. Conceptualisation: Conceiving a concept
    • Where & how to find inspiration/influence.
    • Developing a concept
    • How to plan.
  4. Children’s Writing for Periodicals
    • Children’s pages in magazines
    • Newspapers, etc.
  5. Short Stories
  6. Non-Fiction
    • Texts (writing to satisfy curriculum).
    • Other (eg. nature, history, biography, hobbies).
  7. Fiction
    • Settings
    • Characterisation
    • Fantasy
    • Science fiction
    • Adventure.
  8. Picture Books and Story Books
    • Differences between types of picture books
    • Age groups and picture books
  9. Editing your work
    • Grammar
    • Spelling & punctuation
    • Improving clarity
    • Cleaning out clutter
    • Expansions.
  10. Project
    • Write a short story, picture book or kids page for a (hypothetical) periodical.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe children’s cognitive development and target writing to be appropriate to various developmental stages.
  • Explain the nature and scope of writing for children.
  • Describe the process of planning a written manuscript of children’s writing.
  • Describe the planning and processes involved in writing articles for children’s magazines.
  • Develop a short story for children to read.
  • Discuss the specific requirements associated with writing children’s non-fiction
  • Describe the various categories of children’s fiction and the writing processes involved.
  • Explain the scope and nature of literature aimed at young children.
  • Explain the scope and significance of editing skills and processes for children’s writing.
  • Plan, evaluate, edit and present a piece of writing for children.

What You Will Do

  • Develop lists of imaginary titles and brief descriptions of stories that would be appropriate in your society (or country) for children of different age groups.
  • Analyse the page(s) in a text aimed at children in terms of language complexity and style, conciseness of the writing, content, graphic layout, and more.
  • Determine concepts for children’s writing.
  • Develop outlines that would help you to write about each concept.
  • Develop a set of guidelines (or a plan), that a writer should follow in regular preparation of a children’s page in a newspaper, and consider what, in your opinion, is the purpose of a children’s page in a daily newspaper.
  • Discuss how you would approach writing a comic, and why you think this would be the best approach for you?
  • Write short articles or stories, suitable for situations such as: An educational magazine, A preschooler or infant magazine, or a magazine for teenage boys or girls.
  • Write a short story.
  • Identify a non-fiction book for children which you would be suited to write.
  • Write an outline for a proposed non-fiction book. In your outline, you would include a list of major subject areas (or chapters) that the book would cover and a brief description of the content of each chapter. Include a brief description of how the book would be illustrated (ie. are photos appropriate, or line drawings, paintings, etc?). You would then write one or two pages for your non-fiction book.
  • Write a fantasy, adventure or science fiction short story for a 7-8 year old, which fits specified criteria.
  • Write a story for a 5-6 year old child.
  • Edit some sample short articles.
  • Plan, then write, a children’s short story, a picture book or children’s pages for a newspaper.

New opportunities every day

Children's writing is about more than books: web content, game content, educational content, and apps for children all require understanding of this specialised audience.

Educational texts published as ebooks are increasingly used by schools as they move to children using readers and computers.

Children research their school work online; and read all sorts of things online today.

Writing for children is easier for some people than others. It requires not only an ability to write; but also an understanding of children; and how the needs, interests and abilities of children vary at different ages.

Opportunities to write for printed books have diminished. At the same time, other opportunities have emerged though. Children are reading more than ever; and this means that opportunities to write for children are greater than ever. The trick is to find where the new opportunities are; and carve out an income from those opportunities.

In the past, children's writers began their career by submitting manuscripts to publishers; and persisting with that approach; until they finally got something published and started to build a reputation.

That approach may still occasionally work; but for most  there are other ways which are more likely to bring dividends.

Editors are receiving so many manuscripts from would-be children’s writers that many are strictly limiting what they will accept. Many publishers will no longer accept submissions for picture books. With so much to choose from, and so many publishers, the children’s book market is highly competitive and editors can afford to demand high quality and uniqueness.

Some editors will only consider books that they know will sell well. Some publishers might accept an exceptional book or one that is different on the chance that it becomes a new best-seller, but most have exacting requirements, and the writer must do the research needed to know what the publisher wants. On the other hand, publishing is a changing business, reflecting the sometimes rapid changes in readers’ tastes and expectations and reading levels.

Before starting out as a children’s writer it is important that you clearly identify the age group and genre you wish to write for.


  • Learn to better understand children.
  • Focus on the message. It is essential to have a clear focus on the information that you want to convey. When writing is verbose (too wordy), the reader will find it more difficult to focus on the key facts. Therefore, an important skill is to reduce wordiness. 
  • Be self critical. Learn to step outside your own natural perspective to look at your work as others might. Imagine who might read your work, and consider how you might target different people in your audience. When writing for popular newspapers and magazines, you will write for a great range of people, from uneducated unemployed people, to highly qualified academics. Your content can remain complex, but if you want all these readers to understand you, the delivery must be as simple and uncomplicated as possible.
  • If you have a choice, use simpler words with fewer letters and fewer syllables. Use words that are most familiar to the receiver. If you use a word in a way that is not familiar to the reader, you can help the reader understand what you want to get across by using the word in a context that clarifies the meaning. If the word itself might not be familiar, explain the word within the text (in fictional writing), or use a footnote (in non-fictional writing) to explain the meaning. Some ways to avoid misunderstanding are described in the following section.
  • If you have a choice, write shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs. This is particularly relevant to non-fiction writing where the message must be very clear and concise. In fictional writing, however, and also in some non-fiction such as essays, brevity is not always appropriate or desirable. Sometimes, wordiness and complexity can add an important dimension to the atmosphere, tone and meaning of a text, and are needed to reflect a particular personality, perspective or historical period. If wordiness and complexity are not key elements of the story or text, it is best to avoid them, especially if you are a beginning writer.
  • Where possible, present complex factual information in tables, charts, graphs or in point form to allow it to be grasped more readily.

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John Mason

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