Why write for children?

This is a question I have been asked on more than one occasion. Each time it's been by an adult. I don't think they are belittling the process, but it did make me start to consider the reasons for my choice of target age range.


If I'm honest, my first attempt at a complete piece of work was an historical crime novel for adults. It now resides in a drawer and is unlikely to see the light of day again.

It's in there somewhere.
It's in there somewhere.

I then joined a writing class and returned to my childhood love of playing with words and creating poetry of sorts.

The intervening years of musical activities and working as a music teacher must have had an effect, because I found myself writing rhyming, nonsense verse. My tutor and various fellow writers insisted, until they were blue in the face in some cases, that my texts were 'definitely picture books' and I should submit some of them. The rest is history, as the cliche (examples of which we are always told to avoid 'like the plague') goes.


But why have I stuck to writing for children and younger children at that?


I do still have a go at the odd short story or poem that's intended for adult consumption, but never with any real thought of submitting them anywhere. I love creating stories for younger people. I remember the satisfaction and enjoyment I used to get from reading as a child - nonsense verse, adventure stories, tales from history, humour - everything, really. I still do. A visitor to our house the other day commented on just how many of the books on the shelves were for children. Of course they are - I'm a (still feels a little odd hearing this) children's writer. I read lots of children's books as part of my work - good excuse!

Today's reading material!
Today's reading material!

When I really think hard about my reasons, I seem to always come back to a statistic discovered through long term research by Book Trust. Children who have access to books from a young age, who have parents who read to them and who read for pleasure, are more likely as adults to stay in continuous employment, own their own home, be IT literate, vote and trust other members of their community.

What better reason to provide stories for them to enjoy?

Maybe that sounds a little high-handed (is that the right word?). If I'm honest (again!), the real payback for the hours of struggling to get a story or rhyme just right is the time spent at events or in the classroom, seeing the reactions of children to my, and others', writing. That time when a young child picks up a book and starts to read for themself. It's an ability so essential in life.


Just recently I read an interview with Ruth Rendell, probably best known for her Inspector Wexford crime novels and an ambassador for the National Literacy Trust. She stated that she was so concerned at illiteracy levels in this country she has written a novel comprising words of only one or two syllables - Archie and Archie. She hopes it will become a book that adults learning to read can enjoy with their children. It's actually her second book aimed at new adult readers. 'There are seven million adults who cannot read,' she said at the Oxford Literary Festival. 'It's awful.'


It is.

I hope there continue to be stacks of great and enjoyable books written for children, so they can learn to love the act of reading. With such charities and organisations as Book Trust (www.booktrust.org) and the National Literacy Trust, amongst others, working hard to make sure every child in this country has the opportunity to own a book, and every adult has the chance to improve their reading skills and get support in their attempts, it's extremely important that there are fresh, new books out there for them to discover.

My stack of books - old and new.
My stack of books - old and new.

What about any of you who are children's writers? Why do you write for them? And even if you're not a writer and are reading this post - do you have an opinion on why it's important to write stories for children?

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Kathryn Evans (Friday, 29 March 2013 17:29)

    What a thought provoking post Julie - 7 million is a shocking figure. I know plenty of adults that don't enjoy reading even though they can -what a lot they miss out on.