Friday, May 20, 2011

Genres in Children’s Writing

Writing for children comes in many flavors or, as we writers call them, genres. In case you are a bit confused about the many types of children’s writing, let’s take a brief look at them. 

Picture Books

When people think of children’s writing, they usually think first of picture books. Picture books form a large segment of children’s literature. What is a picture book? Basically, a picture book is a book in which the pictures do a big part of telling the story.  Picture books can be further divided into books for various age groups: the Baby Picture Book (under age one), the Toddler Picture Book (ages 1-3), and the Early Picture Book (ages 4-8). 

Picture books can be fiction or non-fiction. They usually run 32 pages in length with a word count of anywhere from 300-1500 words (usually on the higher end for non-fiction).  The average length of most current picture books is 300-800 words because most publishers today usually prefer this length. 

Easy Readers

These books are geared to children who are just starting to read on their own, usually from ages 6-8.  Also called “easy-to-read” books, easy readers run from 32 to 64 pages and usually have a word count of 200 to 2000 words, with a lower word count offering a better chance of publication. 

Chapter BooksWritten for the 7-10 age group, these books are usually 45-60 pages in length and are divided into short chapters of about 3 to 4 pages each. The chapter divisions make young readers feel as though they are reading a “real” book. 

Middle-Grade Books

Readers of middle-grade books are from 8-12 years old.  This age group is often called the “Golden Age of Readers” because reading holds high interest for this age group compared to children of other ages. Middle-grade books run anywhere from 100-150 pages and are often  written in series. Children of this age readily identify with a main character. If you can create an engaging character that captures the hearts and minds of the middle-grade child, you may have a series on your hands.  🙂 

Young Adult (YA)

Young adult readers include children from 12 to 18.  Books for this age group run from 25,000 to 50,000 words and are more complex.  Within the YA genre, a sub-genre targeted to 10-14 year-olds is becoming popular. Books for this age group are sometimes called “Tweener” books because they are written for those between later childhood and the early teen years. 

Wherever your interest lies, you can find markets for your writing. If you’re not sure which genre is best for you, try your hand at all of them and discover which one best fits your writing style and interests.

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6 thoughts on “Genres in Children’s Writing

  1. Thank you for this, MaryAnn. It’s so important to know who you are writing for, especially with children. I do wish publishers would still break down the middle grade novel like they used to. There was middle grade (ages 9-12) and upper middle grade (ages 12-15) and YA was 15 and up. Think about it – some topics that are appropriate for 15 year olds are not for 12 year olds.

    The younger set can also include board books, which have thick pages and as few as 50 words. Some don’t have any.

    Remember when tackling early readers; these kids are learning to read so you need to use easy, repetitive words the child can read or sound out themselves. These are the most difficult kinds of books to write in my mind.

    And while picture book illustrations help tell the story, the story still needs to be able to stand alone unless it’s a story like Wacky Wednesday (Theo LeSieg.)

    I find great satisfaction with writing for children. It feels great when a child says, I loved your book, Mrs. Halter!

    Praise the Lord!
    May 20, 2011 at 10:23 AM

  2. Hi MaryAnn, thanks for posting your link on the ACFW loop and I will be adding your blog to my google-reader. I found this post helpful because I’m torn between MG and YA for my wip. You mention page length for MG–what would word count look like? Thanks again!
    May 21, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    • A good word length for a middle-grade novel is 25,000 words. Anywhere from 20K to 40K would work well too, depending on the publisher’s guidelines. Hope this helps. 🙂
      May 21, 2011 at 1:09 PM