How to Write for Young Readers

There is a difference between writing for adults and young readers. I’m not talking about the PG vs. rated R stuff. I’m talking about how the minds of young people absorb information differently than the more mature minds.

When you are writing for older people, you can skip over some of the detail or dialog that makes up a story more than you could with younger readers. I am not saying that these things need to be omitted from the older reader’s writings, but they just don’t need to be repeated as often or drawn out more in order for the reader to understand what you are trying to convey.

Young readers are just leaving the “picture book” genre and entering into a world of imagination that they need to develop themselves. So it is our job as a writer for young readers to carry them through this development with the most vivid scenes and exciting adventures to keep them interested.

Children have an incredible imagination. They are all born with it. But when they are exposed to too much television or video games, these things are doing the thinking for them and the young minds of children start to lose the ability to use that imagination for themselves.

When writing for children, you need to return to your own childhood and think the way children think. You need to pay attention to how kids interact with each other. If you watch children when they are playing or arguing with each other, it usually is different than the way adults handle themselves in these situations.

Even when one child is trying to retrieve a toy from another one who doesn’t want to give it to them, the one holding the item will switch hands and fling their arms out of reach as they maneuver the item around themselves keeping the offender from retrieving their prize.

If one child takes a toy from another child, the victim will most likely throw a tantrum, tattle, or start crying. An adult usually doesn’t handle the situation this way. An adult might yell, or at least raise their voices. They may even strike out with as solid punch, because the adult who began the argument most likely was intended to start a brawl in the first place. Or an adult might just let the offender have what they want because they don’t want any trouble.

When writing, it’s important that the child can understand how situations happen and how they are resolved. If it’s two children fighting in your story, it shouldn’t be portrayed like adults handle themselves. This is foreign to children and they wouldn’t be able to understand what is happening. But if you have the children fighting like a child might react, then you are in their world and they can identify with the action that is happening more easily.

You can do the same thing with their empathy or the way they play with each other. If a child falls down, he may lash out at another child helping him because he is embarrassed by his stumbling. And the child that was trying to help him might feel hurt because he was only trying to help his friend. Now the friend who was trying to be helpful is angry at the friend that fell because of his unexpected lash-out. An adult would usually understand the outburst and give their friend some space.

Just remember your audience. Children can teach us a lot about their world just by watching and learning.