The Ancient City Poets / Poet Plant Press blog is participating in the The Indie Lights Book Parade. For the entire month of February, different authors and artists will be parading past our viewing stand. Today we get to spend time with Award-winning poet Leslie C. Halpern. In addition to writing children’s books, she writes nonfiction books about the entertainment industry for adults, and reviews books and movies for several online publications. She has a Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism.
Today Leslie would like to share six things she learned from writing children’s books.
1. Humor is less subjective with children than with adults.
Body functions, body parts, vegetables, animals behaving like humans, kids knowing more than adults, and anything that stinks usually get laughs from children. While adults have a lifetime of teachers, parents, and partners censoring their humor, young children know what amuses them and have no qualms about laughing out loud. The trick is finding the balance where the subject matter is funny enough to interest young children while still teaching them some kind of lesson. Adults sometimes lose themselves in funny children’s books as they let their “inner child” giggle along with the kids.
2. Children don’t fear poetry, parents do.
When parents don’t expose their children to age-appropriate poetry while they’re young, they miss the opportunity to develop life-long poetry lovers. If the poetry is too advanced or too serious for early readers, or the parents project their own lack of appreciation for poetry, they doom their children to a built-in prejudice against one of the most creative forms of written expression. Many people fear poems because they don’t understand them, and therefore feel dumb when they can’t speak the language of poetry. Learning about rhyme, rhythm, metaphor, simile, and other literary devices at an early age will give children an advantage throughout their entire lives.
3. Reading challenges must be age-appropriate to build self-esteem.
Parents and authors share the responsibility on this one. Books should clearly state the reading level on the cover, and parents and teachers need to direct children to age-appropriate books. As the writer, use mostly familiar words, although it’s fine to challenge readers a little if the context helps define the word. Include a glossary in the back if the book includes several words that might be unfamiliar. Reading ability in children varies greatly depending upon their exposure to books, parental support, and language skills. As the parent or teacher, be aware of the level at which the child is reading and find subject matter, writing style, and artwork that make the readers stretch a little to help build self-esteem. If the material is too advanced for the reader, they feel frustrated; if the material is too basic, they grow bored. That’s why age-appropriate (emotional age, intellectual age, and chronological age) are so important with your readers.
4. Gadgets, toys, and musical instruments bring poetry alive for children.
I include many literary devices, such as onamonapia, rhyme, and alliteration in my poetry for children (ages 5-9), and take full advantage of these when reading poetry aloud for an audience. However, even with an animated voice and colorful pictures, my readings and other presentations are often enhanced by props. For example, in Rub, Scrub, Clean the Tub: Funny Children’s Poems About Self-Image, several of the poems and illustrations include yellow rubber ducks. I include a variety of ducks when I read from this book including wind-ups, pull-strings, squeakers, and quackers that never fail to elicit giggles from the audience.
5. Artwork is often more important than the text.
As a writer, it hurts to say this, but the graphic design and artwork are the primary motivators when people buy children’s books. No matter how much they like the subject matter and text, if the artwork isn’t fun, colorful, or interesting, people don’t buy the book for children. Illustrations need not be masterful; it’s a question of reader engagement rather than artistic skill. Unless you have the ability to write and illustrate, hire an artist to provide illustrations that will capture children’s imaginations and make them curious about the text.
6. Don’t stereotype your customers.
When I first starting writing the Funny Children’s Poems book series, I assumed the primary market would be 20-something parents and 50-something grandparents shopping for young children. I soon learned people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s sometimes have young children, and grandparents also come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. In addition, aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents, brothers, sisters, friends, and teachers buy children’s books. Other people who might be interested in buying (or displaying free copies) include doctors, dentists, child psychologists, and other professionals who have children visiting their waiting rooms.
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Contact info for Leslie Halpern
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Thanks to our wonderful parade authors Indie Lights has fantastic swag baskets for three awesome winners! Prizes include ebooks, gift cards and fun!
Remember, winning is as easy as visiting, clicking or commenting--easy to enter; easy to win!
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Thank you so much to Leslie Halpern for sharing her knowledge and insight. Check in and find out who will be dropping by next for the final installment of the Indie Lights Book Parade.
Thank you for all your support,
Ancient City Poets / Poet Plant Press