Many writers want to write a children’s book because they think it would be fun. Writing for children is fun, but fun does not mean easy! In fact, the more you learn about writing for children, the harder it gets. Most writers think of the standard 32-page picture book when they consider writing a children’s book, but there are other sub-genres within the genre of children’s literature that writers need to be familiar with.
Boardbooks for Toddlers
Boardbooks are designed for the youngest audience. These sturdy cardboard books can withstand wear and tear from active toddlers. Little ones can spill their Cheerios on them and even chew on them–they are almost indestructible.
Boardbooks are usually twelve pages, with the story and illustrations being laid out in six two-page spreads. Word count varies, but is usually between 150-300 words. The text for boardbooks is simple and straight forward, but needs to engage the child or he/she will quickly lose interest.
Rhythm, rhyme, and repetition are appropriate for this age and genre, but tough to pull off skillfully. The challenge is to say as much as you can with a few words as possible—using the right words. The words need to be simple enough for a young child to understand, yet lively enough to create an enjoyable reading experience. Illustrations are usually full page spreads, but the author has little or no input into the illustrations if the book is published by a traditional publisher.
Topics and Themes
When writing for children, the author needs to keep in mind that he or she is writing for the parents as well as the children. Since parents will be buying and reading the book to their children, it must first appeal to them. Educational themes such as numbers, colors, shapes, and the alphabet, are popular topics for boardbooks. However, with so many of these books already out there, the author has to offer something with a different twist or hook in order to avoid the slush pile.
Holiday themes are usually in high demand. Even though there are zillions of Christmas books already on the shelves, many publishers are looking for something new for the biggest shopping holiday of the year. Thanksgiving, Easter, and Valentine’s Day are also good holidays to pursue. From 2006-2010, I wrote ten die-cut holiday boardbooks for Zondervan. Five of these books made it to the top of the CBA best-sellers list and are still going strong. Holiday books usually sell quite well, even though the sales are seasonal.
Boardbooks with Spiritual Themes
Holiday boardbooks written for the Christian market can teach little ones how God’s love relates to a specific holiday. Non-holiday boardbooks can zero in on spiritual lessons as well. My two newest boardbooks published by Standard Publishing are titled God’s Big Promises for Kids and God’s Big Ideas for Kids.
Published as a pair, each book includes short rhyming text and Bible verses from the International Children’s Bible. God’s Big Promises for Kids offers comforting promises that children can relate to: I Am Always with You; I Care about Your Problems; I Am Your Friend, I Love You Very Much. God’s Big Ideas for Kids teaches children how to live in obedience to God’s Word: Tell the Truth, Share with Others, Obey Your Parents, Love God and Others. Though these themes are familiar themes in the world of Christian publishing, when writing for little ones, the lessons must be presented with kid-friendly and age-appropriate language.
Know Your Audience
As with any genre, the author must know his or her audience. If you want to write for young children, you need to spend time with them. You need to know how they talk and what they respond to. You need to see the world through their eyes and know how to relate to them at their level.
If you are interested in writing a boardbook, the best thing to do is read them. Lots of them. Over and over. Writing boardbooks is fun. But fun is not easy.