My favorite tool as a kid lit writer

When I first embarked on the adventure of writing kid lit, I had little guidance.

At first I thought it would be easy. After all, I knew my 7- and 8-year-old nieces. I knew their basic vocabulary and their interests. It was just a matter of storytelling.

Except by the time I reached the second chapter, I encountered a recurring problem: Do they know this word? Can they pronounce it? Even if they use it in daily discourse, will they recognize it on the page?

Vocabulary became a red flag for me. At times I worried I was using language too advanced for my first-grade niece. Other times I worried I was using words too juvenile for my third-grade niece.

When they read Sarah & Katy and the Imagination Blankets, it turns out there were a few words they stumbled over. They simply asked the nearest adult to tell them what word it was. In one case, Katy also had to ask what the word meant.

This time around, I’m better prepared. I not only have the knowledge of which words they were comfortable reading aloud; I also have THIS:

The Children’s Writers Word Book, distributed by Writer’s Digest Books, has been a priceless asset in writing the next Sarah & Katy adventure. It features:

  • Chapters on reading standards and benchmarks.
  • Vocabulary lists for each grade level through sixth grade and middle school
  • A thesaurus to help choose the right word for the right grade level
    (Sample entry) accumulate (6th): assemble (4th), collect (3rd), gather (1st), keep (K), multiply (2nd)
  • An index to quickly look up a word and its corresponding grade level

The Word Book has been the most valuable tool I’ve had this time around. When I use a word I think is outside my nieces’ vocabulary, I look it up. If it’s a sixth-grade word, I use the thesaurus to find a corresponding third-grade word.

This book comes with my highest recommendation for kid lit writers. (And perhaps even parents of young readers who want to work with the kiddos on vocabulary lists at home.)

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