On Writing For Children

The very title of this blog sounds almost condescending, doesn’t it? As if I know all there is to know about what kids these days want to read. The funny thing is, that’s my whole point in writing it. I DON’T know. Not really. And neither does any other adult writer, no matter how successful they may be.

I hear all the time about what kids can handle, what they  understand and what they don’t. I hear it from other parents, teachers, counselors, even fellow children’s writers. Then I talk to my own kids, and I realize we’re all WRONG. Kids are so much more capable than we give them credit for, and many of them have gone through things we can’t even imagine.

And yet we worry about what we should include in our books for them. We wonder if they will understand the complexity of human interaction, of personal fulfillment and growth, if they will be offended or scarred by  mentions of abuse, by touching on  the fact that some adults aren’t  to be trusted. And, above all, we worry that they will be bored by any wish of ours  to teach them how to avoid pain and loss by making better choices than we ourselves made because, after all, we are here to entertain, not teach…

And yet, we are adults. We have lived lives beyond what our young readers have ever known. And in living those lives, we have learned valuable lessons.

Lessons that could — and should — help our young readers.

Am I taking about preaching at them? Never. Even children know when they’re being condescended to, and contrary to popular belief, they don’t like it. What I am saying is, we need to stop taking our readers’ naevete’ for granted, and be willing to bridge difficult subjects in our writing to them. We need to have the courage to say “I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there. Here’s how you can get out.” We need to believe that our young readers not only understand deeper issues, they have lived them, and might still be living them… and they really do need… and WANT… advice to get out of it.

The days of kid gloves are over. Our children are hurting. The question is, are we willing to show them that we know it and care enough to help?

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4 Responses to “On Writing For Children”

  1. I am also a kids writer..and am lucky enough to have an 8 year old…who I run everything by….its either a yes mum…or a definite no…I think you are so right kids can handle much more language than we give them credit for..and if my little one is anything to go by..she hates things dressed up in gooey sweet words..great post..ELiza Keating

    • Thank you. It was a thought I had on my way to sleep. I wrote it on my phone, which I usually don’t do. But when inspiration hits, you know it has to be listened to RIGHT THEN. 🙂

  2. And forgot to say …what a stunning blog..ELiza

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