Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Five years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week’s post is from my good friend and children’s author, Vivian Kirkfield, as she talks about points of view…
Picture Books: A Child’s POV
By Vivian Kirkfield
“Read me one more story, please?”
Just about every parent has heard this plaintive cry. Young children love to listen to picture book stories. They enjoy cuddling close to daddy on a comfy couch or leaning back on mommy’s lap as they help to turn the dog-eared pages of a beloved book.
Why should we read picture books to young children?
- We read with them for entertainment and enjoyment. Their messages can help young children deal with many of the challenges they encounter. Reading with young children engages them in the world between the pages. Children are able to relate the events in the book to their own experiences. Studies show that children who are read to at an early age are more successful in school.
Which books should a parent read? A parent can:
- Consult children’s librarians
- Check out reviews on Amazon and other book review sites
- Ask for recommendations from teachers and friends
- Encourage the child to make some choices.
What makes great picture book? Whether it is a quiet bedtime book or a rollicking pirate adventure…a great picture book should have:
- Captivating illustrations
- Simple text
- Story that a child can relate to
- Emotional response
As picture book writers, we need to keep those four factors in mind. But picture books are not the only types of books for young kids. Here is a list of the different types of book formats and what you can expect to find in each.
- Board books – for infants to toddlers, hard board pages usually plasticized for sturdiness, simple pictures, minimal text, these days many popular picture books have been redone as board books, but they used to be mostly concept books (numbers, colors, ABC’s).
- Picture books – for preschoolers to 4th grade…although ages 3-5 is considered the ‘sweet spot’, designed to be read to/with the child, 32 pages, balance between text and pictures, but recently more pictures than text,1000 word max…but recently 500 words or less are preferred, art tells much of the story, child or child-like hero is at center of story, fiction or non-fiction or concept book, example: Where The Wild Things Are.
- Easy-reader or level reader – 6-8 year old, illustrations on every page, usually broken into chapters, shorter sentences and repetition, 2-5 sentences per page, aim is for the child to read it himself, example: Amelia Bedelia
- Early Chapter Books – 7-11 year old, 45-60 pages, broken into chapters, each chapter is broken into 3-4 pages, illustrations are small, usually black and white and only on every few pages, 2-4 sentences per paragraph, each chapter ends so they want to turn the page, example: Ramona.
- Middle Grade Novels (MG) – 8-12 year old, 100-150 pages, minimal illustrations, invites the child to bring his own imagination to the story, example: series books such as Chronicles of Narnia.
- Young Adult Novels (YA) – 12 years old and up, 100-400 pages, complex plots, themes relevant to problems of teenagers today, sophisticated topics, mature vocabulary, example: Twilight Series, Hunger Games.
As writers of children’s books, it will be helpful to remember these parameters.
I think that writing for children is the best job in the world! As Jorge Luis Borges said, “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” We hold in our hands the ability to create beautiful stories that will entertain, educate and elevate the young children of tomorrow.
Vivian Kirkfield is a mom, an educator and an author who is passionate about picture books, enjoys hiking and fly-fishing with her husband, loves reading, crafting and cooking with kids during school and library programs and shares tips and tactics for building self-esteem and literacy in her parenting workshops. To learn more about her mission to help every child become a reader and a lover of books.
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FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020) illus by Gilbert Ford