The boom in self-publishing has made it relatively simple and economical to publish a book. New children’s titles are popping up almost daily in both eBook and print formats. While writing a primary reader or picture book may seem easy, there are several important elements to consider before you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.
Understanding the primary reader vs. picture book
Primary readers are for children aged six to eight and are meant to be read alone. Picture books are for age five and under and are meant to be read by a parent. A picture book should average five to six words per sentence, and no more than 10 words. The story should be simple to understand, yet, the action should be continuous.
A primary reader should be an average of 1,500 words, but not more than 2,000 words. Sentences should contain between five and eight words. The plot should be a bit more complex than a picture book with fast-moving action to hold the child’s attention.
Choosing age-appropriate vocabulary
Vocabulary should be age appropriate so that the child can read and understand the words. A common mistake with inexperienced children’s writers is to use words that a child may not comprehend. While the sentence, “He is fond of his new friend,” may sound more appealing to the writer, “He likes his new friend,” is much more age appropriate. A six-year-old most likely won’t understand the word “fond.” Simpler is always better. If in doubt, several websites, such as k12reader.com, provide vocabulary lists for each grade level. You can also contact your local school and request a vocabulary list for the grade levels you are interested in writing for.
Keep in mind when writing that picture books and early readers are intended to help a child build word understanding. Repetitious words allow you to show the meaning in a number of conceptual ways. A good start for a beginning children’s author is to focus on one word and show it in use in different ways throughout the story.
The importance of illustrations
The selection of illustrations for your book is equally as important as the text. The illustrations should do exactly that- illustrate the story. Young children rely on the illustrations to help with the words and each page layout should be carefully planned. Illustrations should be crisp, clean, and not overly complicated. Children will rely on the pictures to help with the words, and a cluttered illustration won’t serve the purpose. Even if you can’t draw a straight line, you should have a visual as to how you want each page to look. Either do a rough sketch or write down the details.
Writing for children is extremely rewarding but it does take careful planning if a story is to be successful. Age appropriate vocabulary and eye-pleasing illustrations will make your book more appealing to parents and teachers.