Writing for kids is not for the faint-hearted. After all, kids have absolutely no qualms telling you when they find your work "boring" or "stupid."
Yet that's also what makes it so much fun. We have to push beyond the obvious or ordinary to grab young readers--which is even more imperative for non-fiction writing because some kids have been "schooled" into thinking nonfiction = boring.
Author Nancy Allen, who has written more than a dozen nonfiction and historical fiction books for children, shares some of her tips for avoiding the "boring" pitfall:
- Always be on the lookout for something interesting. "I seldom look for a topic when I’m writing a nonfiction book; the topics find me. One day I was reading an article in a magazine about two women from Louisville, Kentucky, who wrote the song, “Happy Birthday.” My interest was peaked."
- If it fascinates you, it's likely to fascinate your reader. "I dig deep into the research...[to] find bits and pieces of information that interest and surprise. I narrow the topic by asking, What would interest a child about this person? I dig, dig, dig to find the answer. My chapter book biography, Ring the Silver Bell, is the story of Alice Slone, who built one of the last settlement schools in Kentucky. In the picture book, Happy Birthday, the Story of the World’s Most Popular Song, I focused on the period of time in which the two sisters wrote the song.
- Look for the quirky and interesting. "I like adding juicy details and events of daily life to excite the imaginations of the readers, to make them want to read more, to capture the essence of the person, and offer a reason to know more about the person."