Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How to Understand the Young Reader

There is an important difference between writing about a child’s world and writing through the view of a child’s eyes. To write effectively not only means writing about what a child is doing but also seeing a child’s world. If you write about a child’s world through adult’s eyes it may appear unrealistic to the child reader but if you share a child’s view you will allow your reader to share it too.

Have you forgotten what it feels like to be a child? Try to imagine being dependent on another person in order to move around as a small baby would. Things look a little different from the floor don’t they? Now imagine you see a toy you want on the table. How can you get it? You can’t walk or talk. How does the world look from this position?

Next get up on your knees and look around. How has your world changed? Finally stand up and walk around the room. Have your feelings about your world changed? Try to remember how you felt as a child. Following are ten questions you can ask yourself as you explore your inner child.

1. What was my favorite book when I was a child?
2. What was the scariest thing that happened to me as a child?
3. What was my greatest happiness as a child? Why?
4. What was my greatest fear? Why?
5. Where did my monsters live? In the dark? Under the bed?
6. What were my monsters like?
7. What made me feel most secure as a child?
8. What was my best school experience? What was my worst?
9. Who was my best friend when I was growing up? Why did we like each other?
10.What were my ambitions/hopes/dreams as a child/teenager?

Begin studying the work of other children’s authors. Do they write from an adult world view or that of a child world view? Listen to their voice. Do they speak as an adult or as a child?

Find out what children worry about or what a key issue in their life is. Think about the realities of life. There are many issues children have to contend with such as bullying, making friends, school exams, attending a new school, environment, and so on.

Authors who live with young children or exposed to them on a daily basis have a wealth of research available. If you do not live around children but have fond memories, hang out at a library after school. Listen to what children have to say. Also try to remember how you felt but don’t write about past experiences. Write about the reality of life today unless of course you are writing a historical piece.

Have you ever visited a place from your past like a house or school? Did you notice that the image does not fit your memory and somehow everything is much smaller now? It feels kinda weird and is a good example of perception from two different view points.

Put some of these suggestions into practice and your writing for children will take on a whole new language.

Write it down