Tag Archives: children’s literature

KISS Method for Kid Lit: Keep it simple, Scribe.

In honor of spring, Dear Daughter baked a new batch of cupcakes.  Unlike her Christmas polar bears and her Halloween rats, DD’s beautiful bouquet was unnervingly simple.  She completed the entire dozen flowers in the time it took her to decorate one rodent.

Simple, yet elegant.  Elaborate, yet easy.

This KISS method is exactly what children’s writers need to keep in mind when penning tales for young readers.

Up until about fifth grade, kids are learning to read.  Once they hit middle school, they read to learn.  As writers for young children, we need to fulfill all the requirements of a great storytelling, while keeping the writing itself simple enough for high comprehension.

KISS: Keep it simple, Scribe.

CAT’S KISS METHOD

  • K is for KEEPING: While short on words, writers need to keep all the key components of a great story–robust characters, engaging plot lines and a resolution to conflict.  This often translates into fewer characters for kids to get to know and keep straight.  It also means a simpler story arc with fewer subplots.
  • I is for INTEREST: Young minds need to stay engaged.  As writers, we can do this by tapping into a child’s natural creativity and imagination.  The details we provide must be selective–just enough to provide a solid background, but not so much that kids can’t fill in the blanks themselves.  Pick one adjective to describe the dog instead of four.  Use strong verbs that show emotion and physical movement rather than resorting to an entire paragraph of telling.  In other words, declutter manuscripts by omitting extra words and use only those that initiate thinking on the reader’s behalf.
  • S is for SHORT: Short sentences help beginning and struggling readers keep facts straight.  Remember, youngsters are still learning to read fluently at this age.  The front half of long sentences can easily be forgotten by the time kids reach the punctuation at the end.  Shoot for an average of roughly ten words per sentence for young readers.  This is easily done if details are kept to a minimum and strong verbs are used.
  • S is for SOUND: In the early elementary years, children read out loud.  Even in the next stage, kids “hear” the words in their minds as they read to themselves.  Odd phrasing literally sounds funny, while redundant sentences–subject, predicate, subject, predicate–sound choppy.  Stilted dialogue doesn’t roll off the tongue and quickly becomes tiresome.  By varying sentence structure and length, using simple conjunctions and maximizing the robust English language, writers can pen engaging sentences that flow.

Young readers, more than any other age group, deserve great storytelling.  This key time in their lives often determines if they will turn to books or some other activity to fulfill their entertainment needs.  Boring, formulaic writing doesn’t engage busy minds.  Likewise, elaborate writing that is hard to decipher can turn a young reader away from books altogether.

Books for kids must appear elaborate, while maintaining enough simplicity that readers can stay engaged without struggling.

Who are some of your favorite kid authors (chapter book, young MG)?  What do you like about the way they write?  Are their books easy to read on a basic level? 
Curious  minds want to know.

The Secret Agenda of Banned Books? Pshaw!

Okay, so I had a warm and fuzzy post in mind to honor Banned Books Week.  I truly did.  And then I ran across a post that made me spitting mad.

The question addressed: is banned books week really a contrived affair for gays to promote themselves?

Yeah, some people really believe that.

And that’s fine.  I’m all about people getting to have and keep their own opinions.  It’s one of the things that makes America great.  HOWEVER, I do have an issue with people bashing others in the name of “what’s best for the children.”

Folks, I have four kids.  I read what my kids read.  I talk to my kids about life and the very difficult issues that life throws their way.  I know who drinks in my kids’ high school, who smokes and who’s having sex.  I know which kids bully, which ones cut and which ones struggle with family issues.  I know life stinks for many reasons and growing up is dang hard.

Knowing this does not give me the right to parent other people’s kids any more than other parents have the right to raise mine.  Nor does it give me the right to blame writers and musicians for my failings as a parent.  I can’t blame the neighbor, the neighbor’s dog, the swimming instructor or the mayor.  I am a parent.  My kids are my responsibility.  If I don’t want them reading smut, it’s my job not to let them read it.  If I don’t want them to play on the railroad tracks, it’s my job not to let them.

I can’t demand that the train company remove the tracks from my town because my kid might get hurt.  Nor can I call them Baby Killers Out to Harm Unsupervised Children Having Innocent Fun Playing on Train Tracks.

Parents, lean in closely.  You are in charge of your own kids.

Aaaand, back to the topic at hand.  I want you to read the post I linked to in its entirety.  But if you don’t, I’ll paste my favorite quote for you to ponder.

(Linda) Harvey (of MissionAmerica.org) said the ALA “has become a megaphone for leftist values and a  disinformation tool to prevent traditional values from getting much shelf space  in libraries.”

I have  never told Ms. Harvey how to raise her children, what they should read, how they should dress or any other type of parenting skills that come with the pleasure of having children.  I honestly don’t even know if Ms. Harvey has kids, and in truth, it’s irrelevant.

What matters is that I am a very religious mother who teaches my kids a certain set of “traditional” morals and values.  And yet, I do not ban, challenge or in any way, censor how other parents raise their progeny.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if you don’t want to read it, don’t. If you don’t want your kids to read it, don’t let them.

In the same vein, if you don’t want something to go viral, shut up about it.

If people would quit challenging books, there would be no list.  Period.   And that alone would take care of the Gay Conspiracy to Ban Books with the Sole Purpose of Luring Children to the Dark Side.

Seriously?  I have better things to do with my time…like raise my own happy, healthy and well-adjusted kids.  A daunting task in its own right.  I certainly don’t have enough time left over to raise everyone else’s.

So, dear readers, do you think Banned Books Week promotes the evils of the world?  Do you believe that validating a child’s experience (ie reading a book with a protagonist kids can relate to) encourages poor choices?

Curious minds want to know.

Read more: Is library association’s ‘Banned Book Week’ really ‘gay’ promotion?