How to Write Captivating Children’s Books That Resonate

A child reading a book on bed at nighttime

So, have you decided to write a book for children that connects with their wonder? Wonderful! But contrary to the common belief, writing books for children isn’t an easy endeavor at all. I’ve penned stories for adults and kids alike, and let me be honest: the struggles are equivalent! Not only do you need to adhere to essential storytelling principles, but you must also tap into your inner child and research to resonate with young readers.

Crafting stories that captivate and resonate with children requires creativity and an understanding of their unique perspectives.

In this article, I’ll share some invaluable tips I’ve gathered from my experience. They’ll help you on your journey to penning stories that children won’t be able to put down!

1. Identify the Target Age Group

The first rule of writing a children’s book is to define your target age group. The world of children’s books is broad and diverse, catering to an age spectrum from 0 to 18 years.

Picture this: you’re telling a bedtime story to a toddler and a teenager. The toddler would probably delight in a rhythmic tale about farm animals, while the teenager may not be as amused.

Know your audience’s age and tailor your writing to their interests, vocabulary, and comprehension levels! Here’s a general breakdown to guide you:

Book TypeTarget AgeWord CountGeneral DescriptionExamples
Board Books0-3 yearsLess than 100Focus on simple concepts and vibrant illustrations. “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle
“Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney
Picture Books3-7 years300-1,000Engaging stories with valuable lessons, blending text with illustrations.“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak
“The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss
“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
Early Reader Books5-8 years500-2,000Short chapters and simple vocabulary to build reading confidence.“Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss
“Frog and Toad Are Friends” by Arnold Lobel
“Elephant and Piggie” series by Mo Willems
Chapter Books7-10 years5,000-20,000For advanced readers transitioning to longer narratives with slightly complex language and themes.“Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White
“Matilda” by Roald Dahl
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney
Middle Grade Books8-12 years20,000-50,000Generally explore deeper themes and complex characters.“Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan
“The Chronicles of Narnia” series by C.S. Lewis
“Wonder” by R.J. Palacio
Young Adult12-18 years50,000-100,000Often address topics relevant to teenagers, involving coming-of-age experiences and the challenges of adolescence.“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

2. Select Suitable Topics and Themes

Choosing the right topic is like finding the key that opens the door to the young reader’s mind. When deciding, consider the age group, their current life stages, interests, and the lessons useful for them.

Subjects like friendship, family, self-discovery, empathy, and overcoming challenges are common in children’s literature. However, the complexity and themes chosen for addressing these topics can vary greatly.

To get a better sense of what’s appealing, I often research the market to see what’s trending. I take note of the themes popular authors are approaching and their successful strategies.

I also listen to my inner child and remember the stories that resonated with me, exploring why they worked!

A teen reading a book at a library

3. Gather Feedback from Kids

While market research is crucial, let’s not forget who our real critics are – the kids! Children know what they like, and they have a better understanding of what appeals to them than we do. Asking them directly can be enlightening.

Reading stories to my relatives’ kids, I’ve found their unfiltered feedback invaluable. Their laughter, questions, and sometimes sheer boredom guided me to make necessary changes to my stories. Plus, their boundless imagination even inspired new story ideas!

4. Create Engaging Characters

A story is only as good as its characters. Crafting relatable and engaging characters who can inspire, amuse, or even teach young readers is crucial.

Create characters that children can connect with and cheer for. Characters like Matilda from Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” make children believe in themselves. They see a bit of themselves in these characters, and it gives them strength.

Including diverse characters and experiences can also help children understand different perspectives and feel included.

5. Choose Protagonists Just Older Enough

Children often enjoy reading about characters slightly older than themselves. They can look up to them and anticipate their future selves.

However, it’s important to keep the age gap small, so the protagonist remains relatable. A few years older is the key, so that they still remain relatable to the target audience.

Just look at “Percy Jackson” by Rick Riordan. Percy is a teenager, and his adventures are thrilling for younger readers who see him as a relatable hero.

6. Use Simple Language

Remember, children are still mastering language. The language you use should be digestible for your target age group – not too complicated, yet not overly simplified.

I find the Hemingway app very useful for this. It estimates the readability of your writing based on grade levels and even offers suggestions to refine the readability.

7. Appeal to Adult Readers

Don’t forget that adults often enjoy children’s books too! Many adults love children’s books for their timeless themes, engaging storytelling, and profound messages. Countless children’s books are widely enjoyed by all ages, like “The Chronicles of Narnia” series by C.S. Lewis and “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, which I myself love to revisit.

So while children are your primary audience, it’s always beneficial to pen a story that can captivate adults too. This is especially true if you’re writing for older children.

Research what captures both children and adults to create a book that spans generations. I read adults’ positive reviews for the books to understand what points resonated with them and make note of that.

A pile of books on a table

8. Incorporate Repetition

Young kids love repetition. Just like my little niece, who never tires of hearing the same bedtime story over and over!

The familiar pattern can provide comfort and enhance engagement, making it a valuable technique in children’s books. Rhymes, refrains, or recurring themes can enhance a story’s appeal when used right.

But remember, balance is the key. Your story should evolve and maintain interest throughout.

9. Keep It Concise and Engaging

A wandering story can lose a child’s attention as quickly as a popped balloon loses air. Bear in mind the shorter attention span of young readers. You want to keep your story engaging and moving along at a brisk pace.

In the editing phase, I try to be as ruthless as possible in cutting down on anything that doesn’t seem engaging enough or a burden on the pace!

10. Find Inspiration from Your Childhood

Drawing inspiration from your own childhood can add an authentic touch to your story. Think back to what delighted you, what scared you, and what made you laugh.

Trust me, your inner child is the key to writing children’s books that resonate with kids!

A child daydreaming while reading a book

Sum-Up

Writing captivating children’s books is a delightful yet challenging journey that requires creativity and understanding of young readers’ unique perspectives. 

To create stories that resonate with children, start by identifying your target age group and tailoring your writing to their interests and comprehension levels. Maintain a concise, engaging narrative to keep them hooked throughout the book.

Choosing suitable topics and themes, gathering feedback from children, and creating engaging characters are crucial steps in crafting impactful stories. Don’t forget to appeal to both children and adult readers to widen your book’s appeal and longevity. 

To add authenticity and resonance, draw inspiration from your own childhood experiences and embrace the wonder of the child within you. By doing so, your children’s books will truly connect with young readers in a magical and memorable way!

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