Writing for Children: A Guided Tour

You must write for children the same way you do for adults only better,” author and guest speaker Carrie Dalby Cox shared the quote by Maxim Gorky as she began Saturday’s presentation: Kid Lit 101. “Kids aren’t going to stick around if it’s not interesting, if it doesn’t grip them, if the pacing is not right. They’re not going to read fifty pages to give it a try like an adult might,” she explained.

In addition to good writing, authors need an awareness of the age-based guidelines present in the genre. Beginning with baby books and working her way to young adult, Cox led Pensters members and guests on an in-depth tour of the many categories within children’s publishing, offering tips on how to determine age appropriateness.

“What is popular now is mixing fiction with science and math facts to go along with the STEM that schools are pushing.” Carrie illustrated her point by providing examples such as Unos Garden, a picture book by Graeme Base, which contains small asides urging students to solve math questions relating to the story.

carrie-dalbyDespite the age of the audience, it is important to stay on top of what is currently in, and what is on the way out. “Genres go through popularity spikes,” Cox stated. Several years after Twilight and the influx of similar books the market reached a saturation point for vampire novels. Any works along the same lines became nearly impossible to sale. Vampires haven’t been the only casualties; fairies, angels and now mermaids are suffering a similar fate.

Before closing, Carrie offered several suggestions for those interested in learning more about writing for children:


  • Read books chosen as award winners by Caldecott, Newberry etc.
  • Read at, below, and above the age level of your audience.
  • On Writing for Children and Other People
  • A Complete Idiots Guide Publishing Children’s Books
  • Katherine Paterson ‘s The Invisible Child: On Reading and Writing Books for Children.


Submitted by: Jessica Trippe