Language in kids books

Language in kids books…

My 7 year old has recently been reading the Peter Rabbit books. One thing that struck me was the language.

These books were aimed at children. The language is sophisticated. Ask my 7 year old what “soporific” means, he can tell you.

Comparing this to the language in more recent children’s book s where the language is incredibly basic.

In the first Jimmy James story I wrote, I was asking friends for an alternative word, and the comment was made that we needed an easy word. I replied that I didn’t want an easy word, I wanted one that worked.

Even in another story I was writing, a friend who was  editing it told me the words I was using were too long for a kids book! I then asked someone else to edit it as I disagreed with their assessment of the language.

So, are we dumbing down the language in kids books? Or is it just me?

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  1. It seems to me that the entire world is being simplified for children, not just books. I believe it was Terry Pratchett who said that children don’t need to be taught to be children; they’re naturally good at it. They need to be taught to be adults. And that is something society seems to be forgetting.

    • That’s a great quote Stace 🙂 I think one reason my kids are enjoying my writing, as well as stories like Harry Potter is they aren’t talking down to them. They are 7 & 9.

  2. My writing coach and mentor Emma Walton Hamilton and her co-writer (her Mom) definitely don’t believe in writing down to kids in their picture books and middle grade novels. They, instead, respect children’s intelligence and allow kids to stretch up to the more difficult words.

    I love that you told your friend that you didn’t want an “easier” word, you wanted one that “worked.” YES!

    • Thanks Beth. I’m glad I’m not the only one 🙂 (my now 8 year old asked for a Macquarie Dictionary for Christmas!)


  1. […] some time ago, I wrote a post about the dumbing down of language in kids books, thinking about it, I wonder if the same thing is happening with the characters in kids books. Are […]

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