My reason for writing this blog is best explained through an anecdote:
One of my son’s books, which won’t be named, received all the wrong sort of attention from my wife and I. Neither of us could stand reading this book! It was so bad, that it actually became a point of conversation between us and we regularly discussed how boring we found it to read!
The book never got read and was pushed right to the back of the bookshelf!
But it seemed this book was not happy to be cast away and it would always reappear up the front with the other books, only to be bluntly rejected each evening at story time.
Now I have to admit that my wife’s hatred was quite a bit stronger than mine, so it was perhaps not surprising that she decided to get rid of this book forever. So strong were her feelings towards this book that she didn’t want to subject another parent to the same suffering! So instead of taking the book to a charity shop, as we would normally do, she threw it in the bin (trash)! Not in the recycling, where it may be identified as a perfectly serviceable book, but in a black bag destined for a land fill site!
You may be thinking my wife seems like a pretty irrational lady but, although you may be right, there is definitely a lesson to be learned here!
Below are 5 tips that should help prevent your children’s book sharing a similar fate:
1. Be honest with yourself and consult adults as well as children when looking for feedback. Find a friend or family member who isn’t afraid to ‘give it to you straight’ and most importantly take their comments on-board.
2. Layer your story for different ages; include some humor which only adults will understand. If you’re not sure what I mean; think of kids films (such as Toy Story), they are obviously children’s films but they have plenty of adult references and jokes that parents can enjoy as well.
3. Do the same with your pictures. I saw this fantastic tweet (below) which pointed out an excellent example of this.
4. Don’t make it too repetitive, add some variety don’t be scared of big words, even young children will happily listen to stories with adult language included.
5. Add some speech; even the most boring story can be made more enjoyable with some funny voices. Personally I love trying out my different accents and characters when I read a book to my children and it makes it more enjoyable for them too (although they may be humoring me).
I hope these tips can help you reach your mature audience as well as the younger one you were probably originally aiming for. If you have any other tips or ideas please let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed this blog then please like and share.
Huw Jones is a children’s writer and author of ‘Sydney the Salesman Centipede’ available here.