Contrary to popular perceptions; children’s non-fiction books are no longer the dry, fact and figure statement compilations many have laboured over for school projects. They have evolved into a niche market attracting some of the best talent around. Here are a few tips to guide you in writing children’s non-fiction.
Hook the reader!
The age profile of readers of children’s books varies from pre-schoolers to teenagers; certain styles will be inherently more suitable for a particular age group. Whatever the age group, engaging the reader right at the beginning is crucial to sustaining interest. For this reason, facts need to be stated in a ‘high impact’ manner. Follow the YAG rule. Y-yucky, A-awesome, G-gross. State any fact in a manner that elicits one of these reactions.
Spin a yarn!
Narrative non-fiction is another widely used technique; especially when writing biographies. The trick is to put forth all facts in the form of a story. This is great way to encase the subject’s attributes while writing biographies; however bear in mind that this is not fiction writing. All incidents must be true; sources reliable and at least three added if possible. This technique also often works well in the case of animals or inanimate objects by personifying them.
Remember that kids have short attention spans and love being active at all times. Make use of different formats such as mystery, quiz, word searches etc. A child also loves books which allows him to do things. Incorporate activities and the book becomes an extension of play. After all the best way to teach is through play!
This means that the way you present information should be relevant to them. This is important when making comparisons. The world is changing very fast and things become obsolete very soon; very few kids would have heard about the typewriter today.
Speak their language!
When writing for children it helps to think like one. Keep the tone of the writing conversational, but not condescending. Spend some time with kids to pick up nuances of their interactions and try to reflect them in your writing. Each generation has their own lingo and it’s good to talk in their language sometimes. This is especially important when writing for kids or teens. However slang should be avoided at all times.
Pictures speak a thousand words!
The quality of a book can be greatly enhanced by the use of appropriate visual material. Photographs, illustrations, sketches and diagrams enhance the aesthetic appeal of a book. Many are available on the Internet, however, a lot of scouting may be required to obtain an exclusive photo. Experts on a particular topic are often more than happy to share their work. Be aware of copyright laws and acknowledgements though.