Write to Children, Not Down to Them

© 2015 Jesse Florea

Whenever I speak at a writers’ conference, I tell those in attendance, “If you have a child, were a child, or have ever seen a child, you can write for children.” afb97d46-684b-4e16-b19f-655f461915c9

I stand by that statement. What I often fail to say is that it’s not easy. Many writers have the misconception that writing for children is simple. After all, kids have limited vocabularies, and stories for them contain fewer words. So writers make the mistake of underestimating this audience.

In nearly twenty years as editor of Focus on the FamilyClubhouse Jr. and Clubhouse magazines, I’ve read countless stories where grandma swoops in with sage advice to save the day or where the child is clueless until dad tells him what to do. Ugh. There’s nothing wrong with a clever granny or smart dad, but to quote a Writer’s Digest story by Deborah Churchman, “Imagine reading an adult novel in which all the cleverness, knowledge and decisions resided in children. Would you identify with it? Then why should kids appreciate stories that give adults all the power?”

Here’s the truth: Kids are thinking, feeling, smart human beings. They lack life experience, but they have quick minds that are ready to learn. As a writer, you can share your wisdom with them and shape who they become in the future. Isn’t that awesome? You just have to communicate in a way that honors who they are.

Kids are honest, energetic, and funny. If you’re writing for this audience, those words should describe your stories as well. Put a unique twist on a Bible story. Show how God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. Don’t doubt a child’s ability to understand concepts and accomplish great things. Climb into their world and encourage them to become all God wants them to be.

Among my stable of writers, there are doctors, missionaries, engineers, former teachers, and stay-at-home moms. As I look through the magazines, I can remember the conference where I met each person. While their backgrounds might be different, they all have the ability to look at the world in a child-like—not childish—way. They possess a sensitivity toward words and their intended audience.

The older I get, the more child-like I become (my wife can confirm that fact). I want to be amazed at life and the gifts God gives us. And I want that amazement to be evident in every story I write and edit.

So inspire children with your stories. Challenge them. And above all, respect them.
Jesse Florea has worked at Focus on the Family for nearly 22 years. Currently, he edits Clubhouse andClubhouse Jr. magazines. Additionally, he has written or co-written more than 20 books, including The Case for Grace for Kids, The One Year Devotions for Active Boys, and Devotions for Super Average Kids. He teaches at a half-dozen conferences a year, hoping to find writers who share his passion of reaching children with God’s truth.614e067b-e41f-4e94-8577-6f83bbc08bd6

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