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Writing for Children and Young Adults – Part Two

Writing for Children

Age Levels and Word Counts For Children’s Books

Last time we looked at books for younger children in terms of their length and word count. This week we cover books that are designed for children once they begin reading on their own.

Early readers

Sometimes known as easy-to read books or leveled readers and are for children aged five to nine that are beginning to read on their own. These types of books are produced at different levels, in which the stories gradually become more sophisticated.

Illustrations appear on every page but often the story is separated into short sections or chapters with headings. The books are also smaller in size than picture books, giving them a more grown-up feel. With these kinds of books the length isn’t always standard, depending on the publisher.

Some books may have up to 2,000 words or as few as 500. Some publishing houses produce 32-page books for this age range, while others might publish books with as many as 64 pages.

For older readers, a page might have one or two paragraphs of text. For younger children there are between two and five sentences on a page.

First chapter books

Sometimes referred to as early chapter books or transition books and are for six to nine year-olds. The style is similar to that used in early reader books but the books are slightly smaller to give them a more grown-up feel.

First chapter books usually have around 30 pages with chapters of around three pages.

The books have illustrations but these appear on a limited number of pages and are not in colour.

Chapter books

These books for readers aged seven to ten are longer and the stories are slightly more complex than those in first chapter books. They have between 50 and 60 pages and chapters of up to four pages in length with relatively short paragraphs.

Cliffhanger endings to chapters are common, designed to persuade the reader to continue following the story.

Middle-grade books

Middle grade books are for children between eight and twelve and can have between 100 and 150 pages.

The word counts are between 20,000 and 50,000 at the younger end and between 40,000 and 55,000 at the upper end of the range.

The plots and themes are more complicated and stories often have subplots featuring different characters. The children in these books are between nine and twelve with main characters being at the older end of that range. Some of the more popular middle grade books are series featuring the same characters in different adventures.

Middle grade books are written in a variety of styles, including those with historical, fantasy, science fiction, and present-day settings. They have similar themes and styles to young adult books. However, due to the age of middle grade readers, certain elements, such as levels of violence, hints of romance and so on, are different to those appearing in young adult books.

Young adult (YA) novels

These books are for readers ages 12 to 14 or slightly older, and the stories are often very detailed and complex. YA novels are longer than middle-grade books and are usually between 150 and 220 pages in length.

Word count is generally between 55,000 and 70,000, although some may exceed this if they are science fiction or fantasy novels. The main reason for this is that in that particular genre the author needs to spend more time building the environment in which the characters operate. YA novels have more than one important character but the story still usually focuses on one main character.

It is important to remember that there is some flexibility regarding these classifications. It’s perfectly acceptable for your story to be suitable for readers a year older or younger than your intended audience. The age level will of course also be dependent on the reading level of the reader.

The different aspects of the publishing business can be very difficult for writers that are just beginning their career. However, these age ranges do serve as a good guideline for those just starting out as authors of children’s books.

Related articles:

Writing for Children and Young Adults – Part One

FoolProof your Writing

Writing Memoir: Why and How

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