Writing for Children and Young Adults – Part One

Age Levels and Word Counts 

When I meet adults interested in writing for children during my classes at the university or at book signings, there is often some degree of confusion about what age ranges books are written for.

Many writers in the early stages of their career talk about the number of pages; whether this is in printed form on standard size paper or simply a page count from the computer. Page count is a poor guideline since obviously the number of pages in a manuscript will not match those in a book for a range of reasons, such as font changes, chapter headings or titles, word and sentence spacing, just to mention a few.

If you’re writing a children’s book or novel, you need to be aware how publishers separate them into different age groups for marketing purposes.
Publishing houses also classify books by genre but as a general guideline these are the age ranges for readers of children’s books.

1. Board books

Board books are designed for infants and toddlers up to age three. The books are usually between 12 and 16 pages in length. They may have no words at all or contain simple stories, counting games, or easy rhymes that teach readers about names for body parts, everyday objects, animals, colours, or natural features. Board books might also have features like lift-the-flap, pages that make sounds and so on.

2. Early picture books

Early picture books are for children between the ages of two and five. The books have illustrations on every page and have around 32 pages. While these types of books are more complex than board books they still only have around 500 words. The stories are usually very easy to understand and feature topics such as fairy tales, short adventures related to the everyday life of a child this age and so on. Activities such as counting may also be included within the story.

3. Picture books

Picture books have 32 pages and are usually aimed at children between three and eight years old. The word count for picture books is between 500 and 800 words, although there have been exceptions with a slightly higher number of words. Illustrations appear either on every page or every other page. The pictures tend to be just as important as the words with regards to the plot. The stories aren’t too complicated and generally feature one main character and his or her point of view.

This age range also includes colouring and activity books, some of which are for the younger end of the range and others that are aimed at older children.

4. Nonfiction picture books

Nonfiction books for this age range are slightly different, based on their content, which includes many photographs, maps, and charts. Nonfiction books cover a wide range of topics, including science, nature, history, biographies, or animals. The upper age range for these kinds of educational books is ten years old. The books are also longer, with up to 2,000 words and as many as 48 pages.


Simon Rose

Simon Rose

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About Simon Rose

I was born in Derbyshire, England and grew up near the Peak District National Park and the town of Chesterfield, famous for its medieval church with the crooked spire. I have a degree in history and have lived in Canada since 1990. I’m also a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature and have been a writer of children’s fiction and non-fiction for many years.

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