Classic Keys for Writing for Children

The Four R's

If you’re like me, you probably have bookshelves crammed with books. Too many to keep and too precious to give away. As I look through my bookcases, I enjoy finding a long-forgotten treasure. Even better, on occasion I’ll make a new discovery—a book that made it onto the shelf without being read.

I recently came across a gem I first read more than twenty years ago: Wes Haystead’s Teaching Your Child About God, published by Regal Books in 1995. Haystead talked about the four “R’s”—relationship, relevance, repetition, and realization in teaching children.

I believe these four “R’s” are equally important in our writing.

  1. Relationship:
    Haystead noted parents who live out their faith for their children to see will more effectively communicate spiritual truth to them.
    As writers, we usually don’t have the opportunity to form relationships with our individual readers. Still, a type of relationship does form as readers relate to our content and decide they enjoy certain authors. How we write can either facilitate this relationship or become a barrier to it. Barriers might include being preachy or failing to use age-appropriate vocabulary.
  2. Relevance:
    Relevance is another important aspect of teaching children and it’s equally important in writing for children.
    Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, do you use illustrations familiar to your readers’ frame of reference? A helpful tool is the Mindset List. This annual list includes what has “always” or “never” been true for entering college students—a good reminder for those of us who can remember a way of life that is merely history for our readers!
  3. Repetition:
    Haystead included repetition as a critical component of the learning process.
    In our blogs, short stories, and books, we don’t want to repeat ourselves. But we can share truth and demonstrate it in multiple ways. Bible passages with varied translations, stories that illustrate our points, and quotes are just some of the ways we can reinforce the points we make.
  4. Realization:
    The fourth “R” Haystead includes is realization—acknowledging that children learn from their experiences.
    The more our writing relates to our readers’ experiences, hopes, and dreams, the more they will connect with our fiction and nonfiction. Do we include references they can relate to because they’ve lived it or want to live it? How does what we write relate to their experience.

By incorporating the concepts of relationship, relevance, repetition, and realization into our writing, we can increase the chances of our readers connecting with us and our books!

How are you including the four R’s in your writing for children?

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks, Ava. These are great points to keep in mind!

  2. Great tips! Thank you.

  3. Absolutely, Ava! I’d have editing clients who either don’t have children or don’t hang out with them, but they want to write for them. And it shows in their writing. When I tell them about kids today and what they’re up against (like video games and the computer, movies, sports, etc) they’re often shocked. “But I loved this kind of story when I was a kid!” they exclaim.

    It astounds me to want to write for a generation and be so out of touch with them.

  4. Interesting! The Mindset List in particular.

    Thanks, Ava.

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