Saturday, September 24, 2011

Keeping It Easy For Kids by: Stephanie Burkhart

My son, Joe, in his kindergarten class

I volunteer in my son's kindergarten classroom each Thursday. The experience is especially rewarding because I love watching my son interact and grow with his classmates.

The children love having books read to them. Their eyes really light up when its reading time.

After reading my story to them this past Thursday, my son's teacher began asking questions. It was a nice reminder to me, as a writer, how important it is to keep it easy for kids. Most five-year-olds appreciate how you, the author, put story elements together and the proof is in their smiles. Some elements to keep in mind:


The setting should be a place that children have some experience with – a house, backyard, forest, lake, or beach.


Characters should be easy to relate to. For example: Mom, Dad, a dog, a cat, or bugs. What makes them easy to relate to? Heartwarming qualities such as kindness, sharing, and giving. Characters should embody emotions children see everyday including sadness, confusion, and anxiety.

The Problem

The kids in my son's class had a harder time indentifying the problem of the story when the teacher asked, but when she stated what it was, a lot of them said, "Oh, yeah!" The problem should be one the kids can understand. For example, frustration or loneliness.

The Solution

The solution has to be something they can identify with. Examples include an act of kindness, sharing a toy, or even a smile.

Being a children's writer can be challenging, but hanging around children, reading to them, and even watching a children's show with them can help to give you the perspective needed to craft a special story they can relate to.

My children's book, The Giving Meadow, was released with 4RV Publishing.
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  1. Interesting article, Steph. Working with children helps an author better write for them.


  2. Love this, Steph. It reminded me of a video I watched last night on the Subway website. That Jared guy who lost all that weight goes around talking to school kids. He could have gone on and on about how much weight he lost, but the real eye-opener for the kids was when he simply pulled out a pair of his old pants. Not a long drawn out story, but a simple visual. Sometimes that's all it takes for kids.

  3. Vivian, I agree. The teacher had several laminated cards to "cue" the children to setting, characters, problem and solution - it was a well done and it reinforced to me how it's so important to keep easy for them.

    Rena, yes! All Jared has to do is pull out those pants and that simple visual really makes it click. I agree - that's all it takes for them.


  4. Excellent advice and wise words. Thanks Stephanie for pointing to the key factors in writing for children. I want to remember this when I write with pictures too.

  5. Oh, and I am off to work with children again this morning. They are one of the keys to success for a writer or an illustrator whose target audience is children.

  6. Great advice for children's writers. And, the Jared example is classic - a picture is worth a thousand words.

  7. Maybe it should be a rule that ALL children's writers read their books before an audience of kids of the intended age range. Might lead to better children's books!