Albert Einstein is credited with this amazing quote: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
I have researched the process of writing chapter books and want to offer a few tips to help anyone trying to figure this out. Our kids need chapter books to inspire and encourage them as they begin to face life in a different way.
What is a chapter book? A chapter book is a story book intended for intermediate readers, generally age 7-10. They are more independent readers who are making the bridge between picture books and early readers to middle grade. The art no longer supports the text. This audience is still developing reading skills, so there is a vast difference in terms of vocabulary and sentence structure. As a result, there are younger chapter books that are simpler, but you can get pretty sophisticated for older chapter books. Series sell better than stand-alones.
Chapter books tell the story primarily through prose, rather than pictures, but still contain many illustrations. Stories are usually divided into short chapters, which provide children with opportunities to stop and resume reading if their attention spans are not long enough to finish the book in one sitting. Chapter books are usually works of fiction of moderate length and complexity. The book length is usually between 5,000 and 25,000 words.
In order for a chapter to pull its weight, it must introduce character, introduce something about character, or change something about character relationships. This helps to move character development forward; something must happen in each chapter to move the plot forward.
The most common question most people ask is, “How long should my chapters be?” There must be consistency to keep the pace flowing, but some chapters are simply longer than others because of content. If you begin with short, easy chapters, the pace will have a lively flow. If your chapters feel longer or slower, it affects pacing and readers might keep checking to see when the last page is. Remember as a child what it felt like to get bogged down in slow reads? Every page was an absolute victory because there was too much scenery or character description. If you have a lot of long chapters, you really want to make certain that action flows freely. You don’t want them to become long blocks of information or detail, one after the other, and exhaust the reader. Yes, this requires plenty of editing and counting.
Do a little experiment at a book store to see the difference between the look of an easy reader vs. a chapter book. Examine both types of book pages side by side. The easy reader page has color art and text with a large font. Color art is essential to help young readers view a visual translation. The chapter book has a smaller font with entertainment.
To be continued in another blog. Happy writing!