Writers’ Building Blocks, by J. Spence


Writers’ basic tools are words. How a writer chooses to use words can result in many different responses, such as: humor-smiling and laughing, sad words-crying, informative words-wondering, inspiring words-hoping, all affecting the reader changing them or developing them into better human beings. With words, writers become wordsmiths. They mold and meld their readers, changing their thoughts, beliefs and even their characters making them strong and educated human beings. There is a lot of power in words, so you see, a writer takes on a great deal of responsibility when writing. Writing for children adds even more.

Language used in children’s literature must be different than that used for adult readers. Every word must count since limitations on vocabulary and the length of the book or story count are pertinent.

Each type of book in children’s literature has its own rules about word count and usage. Picture and concept books require very few words, so the author of these books must select words carefully. Since children think in concrete terms, not using abstractions, the words chosen for them reflect this fact.

So when writing for the youngest of children, be very specific with word choices used to express action and concepts. Getting a reference word book and keeping it handy is a great must-have for any writer, let alone children’s book writers.

All the way up to easy readers and even a bit past this, word use is limited to a simple range of one dozen to one hundred words. For four year olds, fifty words is usually the maximum these kids can absorb. Using repetition and rhythm in word usage is appropriate for this age group because its easier to grasp than simply hearing fifty words listed. Illustrations in these books are also as equally important for the child readers, if not even more important than the printed words. Discussions about the pictures and what they are doing is always expected at this age too and why publishers design children’s books this way.

Word choices for older children are limited to fewer than five hundred. You’ll find literature for older kids simple and direct, keeping in mind that the language must be simple, not the subject. Simple here means easy to understand. Using this fact, they like puns and play on words. Repetition and rhythm is enjoyed and even jokes appeal to them, all age appropriate of course. By using these methods, children are learning language at the same time they are enjoying the book they are reading.

Excellent writers of children literature face the limitations on language as challenges to their creativity and imagination. As the age groups rise, in advanced nonfiction, in adventure thrillers for the middle-grade group, and in “coming of age” novels for teens and preteens, the subjects grow complex but the language remains straight forward. Every word still counts.

Words, the fundamentals of language used for expressing ideas. The use of one word at a time is the way language is developed in children. These building blocks used by the writer are placed in categories for the purpose of understanding their usage in sentences. Grammar is the results. Unfortunately, grammar seems to be less important as a study in the early grades of school now-a-days, in contrast to when it was an entire subject on its own in past years. Now, many institutions rely on the student to pick up grammar on their own, or from short lessons in classes, or even from reading up on it from a book on their own time. This radical change has not necessarily been for the better, as shown in how many students entering high school can’t spell or put a sentence together properly. Add technology to the factor and what a mess.


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