Most experts agree: when you’re learning how to write, reading as much as possible should be part of your daily life. And that means reading everything! Here, New Milford, NJ teacher Matthew H. explains what you can even learn from your favorite childhood books…
Children’s books are normally our first introduction to reading and writing. As kids, we listen to our parents, teachers, and other caregivers read aloud to us. Eventually, we read basic sentences on our own until we are capable of handling more difficult chapters and so on. But do not brush off children’s books as only suitable for children; even adults can learn how to write by reviewing children’s literature.
Regardless if your goals are academic or creative, adult- or child-oriented, children’s books contain useful tools that can help anyone when learning how to write better. This is due to the fact that children’s literature runs the gamut of more elementary pictorials to chapter books and covers all sorts of genres, as well. As such, a beginning writer can improve his or her structure as well as creative side from children’s books.
See Spot Run is a common first read for children. While to adults (and even to more advanced children) the repetitive sentences may seem choppy and dull, they contain an essential truth in writing: not every sentence has to be particularly long. This example may be extreme, but good writing should have varied sentence structure, with occasional short sentences to break up longer passages. As boring as reading 20 short sentences in row can be, reading 20 long ones in a row is just as tedious.
Also, if you are able to express an idea with as few words as possible, chances are your audience will have an easier time understanding the principle. On the other end of the spectrum, if you start by writing a more challenging concept (whether fiction or otherwise) in short and simple sentences, you can always elaborate on the idea with more detail once you as the writer have a more concrete understanding of what point you are trying to get across. For example, “Linguistics is the scientific study of language” can become “Linguistics is the scientific study of language, with many subdisciplines concerning language production and use in different contexts.”
Children’s books are often considered to be fluff, but a closer examination of the big names in children’s literature would suggest otherwise: Roald Dahl, Louis Sachar, Judy Blume, J.K. Rowling, etc. Each of these authors is a master at creating their own universes with unique writing styles that can be fantastical, humorous, poignant, suggestive, and so on. The great thing about most children’s authors is that there are no real boundaries in what they choose to discuss. As a result, we can apply the same principle as we’re learning how to write in different styles, being fearless in choosing a topic to write about and committing to it wholeheartedly.
A good writing exercise is to read a children’s book and look for different ways the author expresses different concepts. How does he or she elicit certain emotions? If the theme of the story is more moralistic, how does the author get the reader to learn the lesson without coming across as too preachy? Take notes and consider what you could do differently.
Looking at children’s books, we can come to terms with unique writing styles, whether highly descriptive or more direct in structure. We can learn from them and apply that to whatever writing we have in front of us. So don’t be shy, pick up a children’s book today and you might be surprised at what you can learn about writing!
Matthew H. teaches a variety of subjects both online and in New Milford, NJ. He recently received his MA from NYU with a background in Sociolinguistics and related research. Learn more about Matthew here!
Photo by hunting.glee