Why I write Chapter Books for kids

Chapter books for kids

I love books for kids – picture books and novels. That is probably one of the reasons I like writing them. It was quite a shock when I had my kids, and I couldn’t find books for them to read. This is in a house full of books.

Let me explain.

My younger son, Mr Z, decided he could read half way through term 1 of Prep. He wasn’t even five and a half and he was already reading fluently. He would read the back of a cereal packet – and did! He found his school readers boring and doing his reading every night was a battle. I can see his point – there are only so many times you can read Cat Sat on the Mat, or similar.

It seemed strange that, while he could read, he didn’t enjoy reading. He wouldn’t sit down with a book for the simple joy of a story. We searched high and low for chapter books for him to read, but couldn’t find stories that would inspire him. We wanted a book with an interesting story, but in a format a 5 year old can easily read.

Kids that age have small hands (at least mine did), so the book needed to be small enough for him to hold easily. While Mr Z could read, he was still learning, so the print had to be clear with lots of white space and illustrations. The key for us, however, was finding a good story that he would enjoy. This was harder than we expected.

Mr Z hated the readers as he thought they were boring. He also didn’t like library as the librarian kept pointing him to the picture books and, as Mr Z declared one day, they are for babies! It wasn’t until Mum found The Paw Thing by Paul Jennings in an op shop that reading sparked his interest, and we haven’t been able to stop him reading since. He is now a gorgeous 10 year old with a reading age of a 16 year old! His brother is 2 years older and has a similar reading age.

A few months ago at writers group, we had an author talk about Children’s publishing and he told us that educational publishers aim at the average reader and below. I’m wondering if they do the same in general children’s publishing. I really don’t know. I do know that there are authors now such as Adam Wallace who writes the sorts of books I was looking for back then. The Little Rockets books are also ones I wish were around back then.

Here is one of the reasons I want to write chapter books. I write with my boys in mind. I want to write stories aimed at the 5 or 6 year old my boys were who struggled to find books to read. I know my kids are freaky with their reading, and I’m sure they’re not alone. My kids love to read my stories and they are also my biggest critique partners. They give some fantastic suggestions to make the stories better and are fast to tell me when something doesn’t make any sense.

That’s my inspiration for writing Chapter books for kids.

If you love writing chapter books, check out the Chapter Book Challenge that is happening in March. There are a lot of great posts with tips for writing Chapter Books on the blog from previous years.

Also, if you know of any authors or books that would have suited my boys, or even that they may enjoy now, please send suggestions our way.

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Comments

  1. There isn’t any better reason than that for writing chapter books!

    • Too true, Becky. There’s a quote going around from time to time that is something along the lines of “If you can’t find the book you want to read, then write it!”

  2. hi Melissa, I had the same trouble for my kids. Four of them were reading well before school age and although I would have loved to home school I didn’t have that option, so had to find ways around the ‘dumb’ down curriculum. One of my son’s loved a book called Hector and Maggie which he would spell out in the back seat at 3 years old and I would tell him what the word was after a few guesses. he was reading John Marsden by grade four and we had to talk about the concepts so could better understand. I was reading CS Lewis by grade three. I think I will be writing more challenging chapter books and I loved Paul Jennings with all my adult literacy students. My favourites are ‘the man whose mother was a pirate’ and ‘Dirty Dave the Bushranger’. Both came out in the 80s I think but I still read them to teenagers and adults. Let us both write the kind of things kids like ours long for.

    • Mr Z read the first Harry Potter when he was 7. A school librarian tried to convince me that was ‘normal’, but none of the other kids in his class was up to reading it (I asked his teacher). The funny thing with Mr Z is that he had no interest in reading before he started school & could barely write his name, but took off once he decided he could do it.

  3. Great article, Melissa, and it’s so true, there is a real gap, especially for boys who are good readers at a young age. Books that are at their standard often have themes that are too advanced, and then they feel pictures books are for babies, like you said.
    It goes the other way as well, with older children who aren’t great readers. They can’t read the books aimed at their age, but they also don’t want to be seen reading ‘baby’ books.
    Andy Griffiths and Paul Jennings both fill the gap, but there’s always room for more, so the more people writing chapter books the better, I say!

    • Thanks Adam 🙂 There is definitely a gap that needs to be filled. I agree, the more chapter books, the better.

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