Captivating the children: writing for 7-12 year olds

When I began module eight in my course, I was more excited than I had been for module 7 (writing for children under 7), because module eight targeted the age range I chose for my children’s book. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like it gave me much insight at all.

The course started off talking about the Fog Index, a method used to determine how many years of schooling a person would need to have to understand the book’s content (and maybe this will be useful, I can sometimes use excessively large words.). Essentially, you’d take a random paragraph sample, count the number of words and divide it by the number of sentences. This gives you the average number of words per sentence. Add to that average the number of big words (more than three syllables) and multiply the result by 0.4. The answer you get is the number of years of formal schooling an individual would, in theory, need to have to understand the material. There are some other factors that can change the ranking, such as genre or topic content. This might be an interesting test to conduct on my own writing, to see if I target the right age with my vocabulary.

The lesson then rehashes book lengths, then talks about the book market and illustrations for books for this age range before launching into a detailed look at styles for this age group. Very popular are humor books, justice/revenge stories, adventure and witch/wizard stories (fantasy or magic stories). Then it talks again about keeping the pace of the story moving and the necessity of action and emotion in a story (show, don’t tell.). Nothing about it was particularly new or mind blowing, and a lot of it was either already covered, or applied to writing in general, not specifically this age range.

Tacked on at the end, for no reason I can imagine, is a little section about using wolves as representing villains, and a short discussion on classic portrayals of wolves.

Overall, this module was a huge disappointment. I kept waiting for something I could take out, something useful I could edit for in my story, or something to look for as I read through it, but there was nothing. I suppose maybe if you are just getting started writing and haven’t done much on your own, perhaps it would be helpful, but for someone who has done a lot of writing, even if I haven’t had any formal schooling on it, it was a let down to be sure. Here’s to hoping the next module is better.

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