Children’s writing is a specialised craft. It is a rewarding, inspirational, and often demanding, branch of writing. Very few people can easily recall their own childhood, and write in a manner that children can relate to. For most, it takes many hours, months, and possibly years, to write a unique and appealing story that children will want to read.

There are two major criteria for successful children’s writing: understanding children and developing good writing skills.


 

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MAKE SURE CHILDREN CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU WRITE?

Children are naturally hungry for information and want it in easily digestible form. Also, publishers are restricted by the available space, which is usually limited in periodicals, and the need to include a wide variety of articles, items, features, and advertisements. Therefore, children’s writing for periodicals should be concise, providing optimum information in the space allocated. Conciseness if important to the publisher because:

  • It reduces time involved in writing, typing and preparing the document.
  • It reduces cost of printing, advertising space, materials and salaries.
  • It allows the reader to get into the topic and read the article/item more quickly, ensuring the more of the material is read.
  • It allows for a greater variety of material to be included in the periodical, which increases its interest to a much wider range of readers (which increases its appeal to advertisers).

You can judge the conciseness of a sentence or passage by the length of the words (shorter words may often replace longer, more difficult words), the number of words, and the space taken. But the best way to judge whether your writing is concise is the read and re-read it to determine that each idea is written in the simplest, briefest way possible or appropriate for that situation, and that every word and sentence is essential. 

In general, you can make your writing more concise by:

  • Substituting short words for long words
  • Substituting words for phrases
  • Substituting phrases for sentences
  • Substituting sentences for paragraphs


 

Opportunities:
CATEGORIES OF CHILDREN’S WRITING

 

As with other writing, children’s writing is broadly divided into fiction and non-fiction. Keep in mind, though, that children are in the process of developing their awareness of reality and may not perceive the difference between the real world and fantasy in the same way that adults do. Below are some common categories of writing for children:

 

*Picture books – 6 months - 5 years. Picture books for babies and toddlers are hardcover board books with a few basic words and lots of colourful illustrations. Usually designed to teach the child basic concepts, eg. farm animals, opposites, numbers. Picture books for older children are longer, more complex and written to entertain, as well as educate.

 

*Story books – Short fiction stories for younger children. Colourful pictures are still important but plot and characters are also important features. Settings that are interesting for children are often a good starting point.

 

*Novels – Longer fiction stories for older primary and high school children.

 

*Short Stories – Published in children’s magazines, or in books (either as short story collections by one author or several authors).

 

*Activity books – Magazine-style publications with interactive activities, such as puzzles, colouring in, stickers, short stories. Highly visual, sometimes based on an educational theme (eg. wildlife) or on popular TV characters.

 

*School/text books – Either written specifically to fulfill a per-determined school curriculum or as a supplementary text. Generally requires that the author has expert knowledge on the subject (and possibly, but is not an essential prerequisite, a teaching background).

 

*Comics – Sometimes written for educational purposes (eg. to explain traffic safety to a young reader), but usually written solely for entertainment. Highly visual, usually requires that the author is a skilled cartoonist and can write in a very concise, humorous (witty) manner.

 

*Poetry – Poetry written for children is published in children’s magazines, or in anthologies (collections of poems by different authors).

 

*Children’s Pages (in newspapers or magazines) – These are a mix of things, including activities (such as a crosswords), poetry, colouring-in competitions, letters from children, etc.

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