Continuing our series on “early readers,” let’s talk about who they are and where they’re coming from a bit more today. These aren’t infants and they’re not toddlers. They’re kids from about age 4 (the precocious) to about 8 or 9. Yet, people reading these books really come from all age groups. It’s about learning to read, not about enjoyment, though that’s certainly a HUGE part of it. Still the main objective is helping people to read.
So, you can really use any kind of story for an “easy reader,” but if you want it to sell, you’ll need to think of the younger kids because that’s where the biggest market lies. But today, with the availability of self-publishing on the Internet, anything goes, right? You can right more advanced stories for illiterate adults, too. Yet, let’s assume that you’re going to try and have your book published traditionally and to do that, you’ll need to consider how publishers think.
Yesterday, we talked about how Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat is a prime example of this type of work. Pictures are still important, but simpleness of the language is just as important. A writer of easy readers must choose words that readers can sound out.
I still remember standing in a first-grade classroom, trying to sound those syllables of each word out in front of everyone. We read the “Run, Spot, run,” books then and for kids learning to read, that was the standard. Things are much different today. Even books about underpants and the bathroom are OK. When I was a kid, it would have been scandalous! LOL
But the structure of an early reader doesn’t change. Some larger words are okay, as long as the reader will be able to understand their meaning from the context of the sentence, or if they’re explained before the word is presented.
For instance, you might write: “The falcon’s long claws at the end of his foot are called talons.” That way, they know what the word means, and it’s easily sounded out — “tal -ons.” They already know on, so it’s simple.
Not many writers are game to tackle these books because you have to put a lot of thought behind what you write. It’s not just the story that’s important, it’s the simplicity. You need to create the right atmosphere, the right mix of learning to read and entertainment. In that realm, I think Dr. Seuss is still king.