What Makes a Good Kids’ Story?

What Makes a Good Kids’ Story?

We all have a pretty good idea about what makes a really great novel: a page-turning plot, characters that we relate to, and real conflict are among the big criteria.

But what is it that makes great children’s literature? Believe it or not, the same things that go into great adult fiction can and should be woven into children’s storybooks if they are going to be considered great too. However, there are some differences when it comes to books that are great for the developing mind.

If you want your kids to read, the best thing to do is let them choose books that interest them. Even so, you should help guide their decisions so they don’t waste their time on terrible books that do absolutely no justice to their subject of choice. Here are some things to look for when selecting stories and books for your children:

• Does it spark their imagination? The written content of the book needs to spark your child’s creative thinking. Does it make them imagine themselves in the book? Does it help them paint a vivid picture in their head?

• Does the artwork inspire? This may seem contradictory to the previous point, but a good children’s book should have art that takes their breath away, as well as yours. The visual images should also be very descriptive. This is especially important for children who cannot read.

• Does it teach a valuable lesson? Books can be great illustrations of morals and values. Does it teach you children to work hard, to be kind, to be honest. If the book is just silly rhymes with no lesson, then you may want to replace it with something that has a worthwhile message.

• Can your kids relate to the characters? If your kid is 8 years old, find a book about a typical 8-year-old kid. A book that has babies in it won’t have quite the power on a teenager as a book about a teen or group of teens. And the characters shouldn’t be so completely fantastical so as to alienate your kids. The characters should have flaws and struggles. One of the reasons the Harry Potter books were so successful was that it was about a seemingly normal kid who thought he wasn’t special. Sure, he turned out to be a wizard who performed magic, but he identified as an average kid who liked candy, sports and hanging out with his friends. Isn’t that every kid?

— Fred Williams