Readers of every age, adults included, want to be entertained, so remember to give the piece pace and the characters a dilemma that they can overcome, whether it’s an ant negotiating an obstacle, or a teenager on an epic journey.
Many children’s stories have subliminal, or direct, educational messages. Again, these should be age appropriate – you don’t want to write a story about teenage issues aimed at toddlers. There should be dilemmas in your story but not so scary that the child will lose sleep.
Do your research. Read other books targeted at the same age range. The retail outlets, whether “real” or virtual, will tell you the age the books are written for. Look at the illustrations – the more complicated they are, in theory, the older the child.
Illustrations are as much a part of children’s books as the words. As you’re writing your story, envisage how the pictures would look. This will help you imagine your scene and your characters, and for younger children’s stories, how much text you’d include with each illustration.
If you don’t have children, find your audience – you likely have neighbours or friends with, or who know, children of the right age group to test out your stories. They’ll be only too glad to give you feedback, and if you (the author) read it to them, you would get to see their reactions.
Make the reader want to read on – the parent as well as the child. If they can’t wait to turn the page or flick their finger across the screen, then your job is done.
What do you remember reading as a child? Who was your favourite author?