Writing For Beginning Readers

People often ask me if I write only when I am inspired to write. The answer is no. I write because I am a writer, and sometimes the only inspiration I need is a contract and a deadline. Do teachers only teach when they are inspired to teach? Do doctors only care for the sick when they are inspired to do so? The answer is obvious. I write because it’s my job. I write because it’s my passion. And I write because it’s what God created me to do.

All writing is creative, of course, because you start with a blank screen and then put words together to create sentences. The sentences create paragraphs, and the paragraphs create stories. But there are many elements to the writing process that are analytical and structured. For example, when I write for beginning readers, I call it “formula writing.” The word count and vocabulary need to follow specific guidelines. One line can only contain up to 36 characters, including spaces and punctuation. Thank goodness a click of the mouse can give me that information! If the line has more than 36 letters, spaces, and punctuation marks, I have to rewrite the line.

Beginning reader books can only have so many lines per page, so many pages per story, and so many words per story. The vocabulary words and sentence structure need to be within the reading level guidelines for each of the several reading levels within this genre.Word repetition is also important. Remember the Dick, Jane, and Sally books? See Dick. See Dick run. See Jane. See Jane run. See Sally. See Sally run. See Spot. See Spot run. After reading one of those books, a child knew how to read the words see and run!

The challenge for today’s writers is to write a story for beginning readers that incorporates all the necessary guidelines, that is fun and lively, and also engages the reader.  When writing for the Christian market, the story needs to include a spiritual or moral dimension as well.

I have written dozens of books for beginning readers and the best-selling book of the batch is Mommy, May I Hug the Fish? This story is written with playful rhyme and repetition, which makes learning to read less challenging for a young reader. It incorporates some lessons on age-appropriate boundaries—sometimes Mommy says, “Yes, yes, yes!” and sometimes Mommy says, “No, no, no!” The art is adorable (which I had nothing to do with), and the ending is sweet. I think moms like the book as much as their kids do, so it’s one that they don’t mind reading over and over until their children can read it for themselves.

If authors and publishers could fully understand why some books sell better than others—then all of our books would be best sellers! I am not sure exactly why this one hit the top, but I am happy that little ones are enjoying to read—yes, yes, yes, and no, no, no!.

Here’s to happy little readers!

Crystal Bowman






So You Want to Write Children’s Picture Books?

It looks so easy.

Less than a thousand words and some accompanying pictures. How difficult could it be to write a children’s picture book?

Actually, more difficult than most people think!

Perhaps you have a story you’ve told to your children or grandchildren for years. Everyone who hears it encourages you to “Write a book!” God may, indeed, be prompting you to write a children’s picture book.

Unfortunately, many people begin the process like the character in this video clip:


Here’s a glimpse of what writing a children’s book entails:

First, it’s important to research in at least three ways:

–       Study the market. Read other picture books. Is your story similar to other published books?

–       Study your audience. Are you familiar with their likes and dislikes? Are you comfortable using vocabulary appropriate to their age?

–       Study the publishing industry. Attend writers’ conferences and join associations such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Which publishers are pursuing picture books? What are their writers’ guidelines? Do they prefer characters who are people or animals? If it’s a Christian book, does the publisher have a particular doctrinal focus?

Second, it’s important to understand your own motive:

–       Are you writing the book to become rich and famous – to be another J.K. Rowling? If you are, stop now and pick another career. Rowling is the exception, not the rule. Besides, God’s definition of success is not the same as the world’s definition. Will you be content to be successful in God’s eyes alone?

–       Are you writing the book because everyone has told you what a gifted writer you are? The ability to write, like any gift or talent the Lord gives us, should be used to glorify Him and serve His people, not to make a name for ourselves. Second Corinthians 10:17-18 tells us, “But, ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” Even if you’re writing for the secular market, your motive can still be to honor the One who gave you this gift!

Third, as you write:

–       Pray! Depend on the Holy Spirit, not your own perceived abilities, no matter how good people have said you are. Ask the Lord to show you what He wants you to write. I’ve learned, often the hard way, that my falls are the most painful when I depend on myself!

–       Carefully handle God’s Word. Don’t take verses out of context to make your point. Guard against teaching error in efforts to simplify Bible truth for young children.

–       Persevere! Don’t be content with the first, second, or even third draft. Evaluate your rhythm and rhyme. Don’t settle for good work – make it great!

There’s nothing more satisfying that fulfilling the purpose for which God has created you. If that purpose is to write for Him and His people – or whatever it is – go for it!

For you writers out there, what else would you add to this list?

God’s Seeds

Spring is here! The work of sowing and planting is nearly finished. When the sun shines, when rain and hose bring water, seeds will sprout, plants will grow, and another garden of beauty will have been born.

If it’s our first garden, a few weeks later, reality will hit: birthing was only the beginning of creating a garden. Soon enough, it’s time for more watering; occasional hoeing, weeding and fertilizing; keeping it safe or training plants to stand tall. We watch for buds, anticipate blossoms and, perhaps, the ripening of healthful fruits and vegetables.

It’s the same when a child is born. You hold the child in your arms, enjoy, admire, celebrate and feed, living only in that blissful moment. But reality eventually sets in. The responsibilities of caring for, teaching and training a child 24-7 quickly take priority.

You provide an atmosphere conducive to physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual growth: like healthful food, clean air, safety measures, preventive medicine, learning, wholesome friends and family, character-building stories, quiet times, sensing God in creation, or knowing God’s story in the Bible, making sure your child sees the fruits of the Spirit alive and well in your life.

It’s an awesome honor and privilege, a huge responsibility. Will your child become an adult with a heart so full of God’s Word that he/she will filter choices through God’s Truth?

Your child is a seed planted in your family, like the flower in your garden. The flower needs sun light, and your child needs the light of God’s Son. Here are a few ideas for planting God’s promises in your child’s heart:

1. Do daily 2-minute bursts of Bible memory (from A to Z?). You lead, with your child joining in as much as possible. Say, for example, “A. A friend loves at all times.” “B. Be kind to one another.” “C. Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Begin with one text and gradually add another as your child begins to recite each text.

2. Make a colorful flash card of each text. You could also include an illustration. 3. Hold the card up as you recite a text and move on to the next—not too fast, not too slow.

4. Display the texts and illustrations in places where you will both see them, be able to practice saying them and talk about what they mean—like near the kitchen table or bathroom sink, on bulletin boards, next to your child’s bed, or where you pray.

Each time you repeat a text, your child retains more and will be more able to claim God’s Truth at a moment’s notice. Arm your child for life’s battles. Train your child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.  (Proverbs 22:6)

10 Powerful Tips for Training Unstoppable Children by Patti Gibble

10 Powerful Tips for Training Unstoppable Children
■Author: Patti Gibble
■Illustrator: Gibble Publishing
■ISBN-10: 0615564437
■SRP: $10.00
■Reviewed By: Cheryl Malandrinos

Rating: :) :) :) :)

In 10 Powerful Tips for Training Unstoppable Children, author and trained ministry worker Patti Gibble shares what children need to move confidently through life in a fallen world. In her easy to understand, engaging style, Gibble talks about love, honor, salvation, and more.

As a parent, I want to give my children what they need to follow the life God has planned for them. I want them to know how much they are loved by their family and their Creator. I want to be the example of honor I expect them to follow. They need to be so sure of the gift of Salvation that no matter what happens, they don’t doubt it. They must know the powerful friend they have in the Holy Spirit. Gibble reminds parents and others involved with training children that these 10 tips will help prepare youngsters for a life that is often unfair, dishonest, and selfish. With examples from her own life, the author shows what a difference preparing our children properly can make.

I truly enjoyed the chapter on the Church as an unstoppable fortress. Gibble reminds readers that we need to protect children and how the Church helps us to “protect our children from being overpowered by the gates of hell.” By making church attendance a priority in our lives, we show our children how important God is to us. They can see how the adults in their lives depend upon that time with God and the chance to fellowship with others.

While I don’t think mature Christians will find anything surprising in this book, having a reminder to focus us from time to time is a good thing. New parents or parents-to-be would benefit most from 10 Powerful Tips for Training Unstoppable Children.

I received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for my review.

Christian Author: Max Lucado

One of my favorite Christian authors for children is Max Lucado. His books for children are so honest, heartwarming, and teach life lessons in a way that both children and adults alike kling to.

YOU ARE SPECIAL is one of my favorites. The story about the Wemmicks is fictional of course because it is about small wooden people created by a woodcarver named Eli.But oh what we can learn from the story.

The beauty in each of his stories about these characters is that the themes are so like our lives…. searching for meaning, searching for belonging, searching for unconditional love from parents, friends, and our creator.  Like Eli, our God loves us, welcomes us, and unconditionally cares for us no matter if we have flaws. Lucado demonstrates that with his wooden characters who have noses of all shapes and sizes, feelings that are not very becoming at times, and actions that are not always pure.

The warm illustrations and the tight writing engage children from the first page of each adventure. In YOU ARE SPECIAL children learn that it doesn’t matter what others think or how popular you are, God loves you for your heart and you can always come home to the one who created you. In the story it is Eli but the parallel in life is that we can always come home to the arms of our Creator no matter what we have done, what we have earned, or what others think of us.

Other books by Lucado that teach life lessons for children include YOU ARE MINE and BECAUSE I LOVE YOU.