Do you remember what it was like to be a small child? Psychologists say that a majority of people don’t remember earlier than about age 5. I remember all the way back to 3. Maybe that’s why I still act 12, though I’m over 50. LOL No, seriously, I think that’s why it’s be easier for me than most to write for kids.
But you don’t really need to remember that far back to write picture books. Seriously. You can study kids and learn more about them, get inside their heads, and do just fine.
I remember what it was like having a book read to me. You see, my mom and dad weren’t readers. They just weren’t. My mom would rather have been in the kitchen cooking or messing with her bills (which never seemed to be done), or going out and having some fun with friends. She did read newspapers, but not books.
My dad was a cop, so he worked most of the time, but at night, he liked watching TV while doing crossword puzzles or listening to a radio and doing crossword puzzles, or doing all three at the same time!
Yet, the only time I ever saw my dad reading was when the TV was broken. He read newspapers, too, but I’m talking about books. Nobody read books in my house, except my sister and later, me.
And I read them all the time because my sister, Barbara, is the one who read to me. She made me laugh and got me interested in stories and I credit her with my love of books. Thank you so much, big sis. You really gave me something special.
And that’s what you can do for kids — give them a love for books and reading, just by writing them.
Preschoolers aren’t like babies. They know what most everyday things are, and so your vocabulary can be more difficult and your topics can have more variation because adults are reading to these kids. Even if the child doesn’t understand something, an older person is there to explain it to them. So, keep your concepts explainable.
And allow readers to “act.” Give them a scary Big Bad Wolf voice, or a train CHOO-CHOO sound to mimic. Little ones love that!
Or, in the case of Eric Carle‘s Where’s Spot? Repeat a phrase over and over again and give them something to find. What age group do you think loves Where’s Waldo best? I’m guessing the picture book crowd.
That’s not to say that all picture books have to be funny. They don’t. But don’t make them too heavy, either. Kids this age probably aren’t ready for death topics, for example. They could be ready for divorce because that may have already happened in their family, but be sensitive.
Preschool kids are a great group, and remember what it was like to be their age is a definite help. Study them. Learn what they like, read lots and lots of picture books, and then… Try writing one. You might find that you’re writing the genre of children’s books that’s perfect for you.