Children’s books hold a special place in literature and in our hearts. They teach important life lessons with the power to educate and inspire children. These books build the foundation of a lifelong love of reading. Children’s books help children developmentally and create an irreplaceable bonding experience between parents and their little ones.
Children’s books give adults the opportunity to be silly and use our imaginations. They have a bright and fun visual appeal, teach children to use morals and be kind in a way they can understand, and help boost emotional intelligence and social development. Many children’s books create lasting memories and are remembered fondly.
Writing a children’s book is a fun, rewarding, and creative endeavor! Oftentimes, the hardest part is simply getting started.
What Are the Different Types of Children's Books?
While many consider children’s books to be one type of book, there are actually many variations depending on the age range you intend to write for.
1. Board Books
A board book is a type of children’s book specifically geared toward infants and toddlers. Board books are made of thick cardboard rather than paper and are sturdy for those little hands. These pages are designed to withstand rough handling, throwing, and chewing.
The pages are typically coated smoothly to be water resistant, essentially to fight against drool. The durability allows little ones to learn to be independent readers, easily flipping through pages.
Board books most often feature simple, bright illustrations with vibrant colors and bold shapes to be developmentally appropriate for their tiny readers. The text is pretty concise and straightforward, sometimes not even using full sentences.
They focus on very basic topics, such as animals, colors, numbers, shapes, or baby-familiar objects. Sometimes they incorporate interactive elements like flaps to flip, tabs to pull, or touch-and-feel components that engage sensory exploration.
Board books serve as an introduction to the world of reading and help create a love of books at an early age.
2. Picture Books
Picture books are the next step to reading and are introduced to preschool-aged students. Picture books use a combination of illustrations and texts to tell a story and are typically seen in elementary school. They are known for their vibrant and visually appealing illustrations, which play a central role in conveying the story.
Generally, the illustrations in a children’s picture book take up the bulk of the page, with accompanying text placed in relation to the picture. The relationship between the text and illustrations creates an immersive experience for little readers.
Sometimes, the author illustrates their own book. More frequently, however, the author and illustrator work alongside each other in a partnership to make their visions come to life.
The pictures in these books are there for engagement and comprehension purposes, helping little ones better understand details and text features like characters, settings, and events. They make the text accessible to even those who can’t yet read.
Picture books aren’t only meant to be enjoyed by young children — they’re commonly used as read-aloud books for children to experience with their parents, caregivers, or teachers. They foster an opportunity for bonding, encouraging dialogue, enhancing communication, and sparking conversations about big life lessons.
Picture books are cherished for their combination of compelling storytelling, captivating illustrations, and their ability to teach a magnitude of lessons through simplified words and stories.
3. Early Readers
An early reader is designed to support children just beginning their independent reading journey. These books are carefully crafted to the reading abilities of new readers, ranging from kindergarten through early elementary.
There are key features that are essential to early reader books:
Simple vocabulary: these books use basic, age-appropriate vocabulary that aligns with a young reader's reading level. They introduce and repeat common words (often called sight words) that children are familiar with or just learning.
Controlled sentence structure: Early readers feature short, straightforward sentences that are easily decodable for children. Oftentimes, they feature patterns to allow the readers to predict the next word and use picture clues. This builds more confident readers and helps them grasp building simple sentences.
Illustrations or photographs: Early readers still have pictures to support the text. Generally, early fiction readers have illustrations, while nonfiction texts feature supporting photographs.
Engaging stories: These books are often geared toward the interests of children. The goal is to appeal to interested readers, so the books have very specific topics. For example, there may be early readers about baseball, the zoo, dogs, fictional animal characters, etc. The stories they tell are predictable to encourage inferencing.
Controlled length: Compared to other children’s stories, these are shorter in length. As they are meant to be read by children independently rather than read by adults to children, they are designed to be less overwhelming.
Middle-grade books introduce the idea of a chapter book. They are aimed at readers in the age range of eight to 12 years old but can range much wider based on interest and reading ability.
These books tend to explore themes and topics appropriate for preteens and often situations they may connect with at the time. These can deal with issues such as friendship, family, personal growth and goals, and common sports or hobbies.
These topics are meant to be addressed in a manner that is accessible, relatable, and appropriate for young readers.
Middle-grade books have a higher word count and more complex sentence structure than early readers. They allow readers to grow in their reading skills and tackle longer narratives.
To be relatable to middle-grade readers, these novels usually have characters of the same age. This helps readers to identify with the characters’ experiences, challenges, and growth throughout the story. Not only do these books build on literacy skills, but they help children navigate new life challenges they may not have faced or noticed before.
These books start to steer away from the concept of illustrations to support text. Some have no illustrations at all other than the front or back cover, and others have maybe one to two per chapter to add detail. Most of these books will not have one illustration per page, as an early reader or picture book would.
5. Young Adult Books
A young adult (YA) book is a category of literature specifically aimed at readers near the age range of 12 to 18, encompassing teenage years. However, these are often enjoyed by adults as well and are considered to be a less-intense genre. Similar to middle-grade books, young adult books reflect the challenges and life experiences their readers may relate to.
They are usually written about young people navigating adolescence and the transition into adulthood. The themes of these books often resonate with the teenage experience, such as friendship, first loves, social issues, family dynamics, and finding one’s place in the world.
YA books typically center around the coming-of-age period and portray teenage or young adult characters. The writing style is often engaging, capturing the attention of young readers and maintaining their interest throughout the story.
Character development is meant to teach important lessons and guide the reader through the journey to adulthood. It helps teens see themselves represented through literature and can make a complicated, isolating time feel less lonely.
Writing Tips for a Great Book
Ready to dive into writing your very own children’s book? Here are some of our best tips to get started:
Think of a Hook
The purpose of a book’s hook is to engage readers and make them intrigued to finish the book. It is a captivating or compelling element at the beginning of the book to grab the reader’s attention and keep them interested.
A well-crafted hook can set the tone for the entire story and significantly impact your book's success. It will be your first point of contact between yourself and the reader, creating a crucial first impression.
So, new author, what will your unique hook be? This is a great starting point for your narrative!
Narrow Your Focus
Children’s books generally have a particular theme or focus. While adult novels can explore several challenges or concepts simultaneously, children’s books are meant to relate to smaller people with shorter attention spans. We don’t want them overwhelmed with a wide range of ideas.
Take time to brainstorm the themes, lessons, and ideas you’re tossing around to explore. Writing them down or creating a type of chart or organizational tool can help just by getting all your thoughts on paper.
Prioritize your children’s book ideas based on what’s most meaningful for you. What things do you want to achieve with this book? What lessons are most important for you to get across to your readers?
Narrow your scope to simplify your concepts and turn them into digestible text for young readers. The more narrow your focus, the deeper you can dive into your one specified theme or idea.
Choose an Age Range
Next, select the age group you wish to appeal to. Based on that, you can use the information above to determine which type of children’s book you intend to write. You can make your focus and hook fit the requirements of that book type and get to work on your masterpiece.
Tailor your content, language, and theme to be age-appropriate and accessible to your target audience. You want to ensure that your book resonates with your readers and meets their developmental needs. Start plotting your story, and include characters similar and relatable to your intended audience.
6 Story Prompts for Children’s Books
Still struggling to begin your story? Here are some more story ideas to toss around in creating your own:
1. Write About a Fairy Tale Princess Who Gets Transported to the Real World
This pitch brings fairy tales to life. Appealing to children who love classic fairy tales but are starting to grow out of them, this theme explores finding a sense of belonging, learning to adjust when you feel isolated, and solving unexpected problems. This is also a great opening to explore family situations, the hardship of feeling left out or different, and growing up.
2. Write About a Main Character Who Learns To Make Friends
Like in the book Luna Makes a Friend, this broad theme can explore various challenges and provide tips for bonding and creating friendships. It can enforce a sense of empathy and understanding among children. This suggestion can be simplified to fit a board book or as complex as a YA book, depending on the age of the characters and the challenges you intend them to face.
As the character learns to make friends, you model the dos and don’ts of relationship building for young readers.
3. Write About a Ghost Who Is Afraid of Halloween
What better way to explore overcoming fears than connecting it with children’s favorite holidays? This book idea would fit great in a picture book and can engage children through giggles and their love of Halloween.
Through this silly ghost story, children will learn a lesson about overcoming their fears and being brave.
4. Write About a Squirrel Who Learns To Understand His Neighbor’s Point of View
This fictional animal story can dive into the theme of embracing differences and living empathetically. Children love animal stories and will be engaged, reading about the squirrel and his animal neighbor.
This opens the door to conflict, problem-solving, and empathy around the perspective of others. It can help children solve differences and conflicts between one another and build their problem-solving toolbox when facing problems with a friend or peer.
5. Write About a Teddy Bear Who Learns To Speak to People
What do children love more than their favorite toy teddy bear? Making the perfect board book, picture book, or early reader, you can explore this story in a way that the teddy bear is finding itself. The teddy might bear speak or perhaps not — we know that verbal communication isn’t the only way to communicate emotions.
Dive into the themes of being oneself, even when that means being different from others and embracing your own uniqueness. This can also lead to friendship building and understanding others’ perspectives as well.
6. Write a Science Fiction Story About a Robot Who Goes to High School
Looking for a more sci-fi theme or writing for an audience of older ages? This story prompt could make an excellent middle-grade or YA book. Navigating the challenges of high school, the robot character can represent what it feels like to be laughed at or not understood.
While the robot brings a fictional genre to the story, this creates the opportunity to navigate so many high school themes and challenges relatable to young teen readers.
Write a Children’s Book Today (or Read One)
What better time than now to invest in your future best seller? Explore the joys that come with writing and reading young children’s books. Take this opportunity to spark imagination, teach lessons, and create a lasting impact on generations to come.
Before you start, check out some of the best lesson-teaching children’s literature with Big Heart Toy’s Interactive Books to be inspired! Let your imagination soar and become a part of the wonderful world of children’s literature.