Writing Easy Readers
by Robyn Opie
Easy readers are children’s books that fall between picture books and early chapter books. They vary in length depending on the publisher but as a guide work on 1,000 to 2,500 words. This limited word length means these books have fewer pages than early chapter books. Easy readers are aimed at children who are beginning to read, aged from 6 to 8.
Easy readers are always soft cover and highly illustrated. The illustrations can be colour or black and white. These books have a grown-up look to them, making a child feel like they are reading books like their parents. They often have chapters.
A picture book story doesn’t work without the illustrations – the illustrations are as important as the words. The two work together to tell the story. What appears in the illustration is usually left out of the text.
Easy readers work without illustrations. The story stands alone. The illustrations are included because of the age of the reader, to make the book appear more attractive and less daunting to the emergent reader.
Due to the age of your reader, easy readers are grammatically simple. Sentences are short and the language is familiar to this age group. It is appropriate to use a few difficult, unfamiliar words to challenge your reader. But, for the most part, the words you use should be easy to read and understand for ages 6 to 8.
The characters, settings, themes and conflicts of easy readers must be relevant to your readers. Think of the experiences a child this age has and what they care about. Here are some ideas to consider: family, friends, pets, animals, school, holidays, sports, losing something, finding something, being left out, being different etc.
Easy readers have simple plots. It is best to stick to one idea or conflict. There is no room for subplots due to the word length and age of your audience.
There is also no room for unnecessary words, going off on tangents or waffling. Every word should be necessary to the plot. These books are fast-paced and action-packed. It is important that you hook your child reader or adult publisher in the first few lines. It is important that you keep them hooked with tight writing, fresh ideas and page-turning action.
Keep description to a minimum. Only include character or setting description if it is necessary to the plot. Otherwise you slow your story down and risk losing your reader. Remember your settings should be familiar to your reader. You don’t need to describe a house or school etc.
It is preferable to keep your characters and settings to a minimum or you risk confusing these very young readers. Avoid character names that are too similar. For example, Mick and Nick. It is also wise to avoid names that begin with the same letter. For example, John and Jim.
I’ve heard it said that easy readers should have predictable storylines, so that your reader feels a sense of importance and maturity by being able to anticipate what is coming next. Your story line should definitely be logical, so that what happens next seems like the only possible outcome.
I always write stories that the child in me would enjoy reading. I love humour and surprise endings. The most important thing to remember is that the surprise ending makes sense and seems totally plausible given all that has come before it.
Visiting a good book store or library is invaluable. You need to see what is being published and by whom. You need to familiarize yourself with the language and structure of easy readers. The more you learn, the more you write, the better you become as a writer and thereby improve your chances of being published.
Publishers are looking for original, fun stories that will appeal to this age group. I’m sure that’s what you want to write. So go for it!
© Copyright Robyn Opie. All Rights Reserved.