There are a number of genres within the children’s book arena. The target audience ranges from babies right on through to young adults.
This provides a unique situation for writers to pick and choose a genre that feels comfortable to write in, while still remaining within the children’s book market.
Each genre is geared toward a specific age group and has its own set of rules and tricks.
Children’s Books: An overview of the different genres and a description of each:
Bedtime stories: These stories are simple and soothing. They are written to help lull little ones off to sleep and are in the form of picture books. The age group can be from newborn to five or six years of age.
An example of a bedtime story is Day’s End Lullaby by Karen Cioffi. The classic Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is another example of a bedtime story.
Board Books: Board books are simple picture books geared toward babies and toddlers. They are designed to hold up to a toddlers prying and pulling fingers. Board books can be black and white or very colorful. These books usually teach simple concepts, such as numbers from one to ten, days of the week, colors, and simple words.
An example of a classic baby board book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is also a board book, a very well known.
Picture books for the 2 – 5 year old group: These books are meant to be read aloud the child. Rather than simply concept themes, simple story lines can be written with short sentences and words. These books are for children in the ‘pre-reading’ stage and the word count can range from 100 – 500 words.
An example of a very young child’s picture book is The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown.
Picture books for the 4 – 8 year old: This genre makes up most of the picture book market. These books are also meant to be read aloud to children, but for the older child it can be read individually. The pictures will give a visual element for children learning to read, helping with the comprehension of the text. The wording and themes can be a bit more interesting, but still rather simple.
For the writer, in this genre you will need to use introduce ‘showing’ to create an engaging reading experience for the child. The average picture book is 32 pages and under 1000 words.
Two examples of picture books for this age group are Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Owen by Kevin Henkes.
Easy (early) readers are usually for the 5-8 year old group. Children in this group are transitioning from picture books and are developing their reading skills. The stories though should still be kept relatively simple and have only one POV. The font size gets smaller with these books and the word count is between 500 and 1,500 words. While these books are very short, they are divided into chapters. Illustrations are strewn here and there throughout the books. The easy readers usually come in series.
Examples of easy readers are LING AND TING: NOT EXACTLY THE SAME by Grace Lin and the Cam Jansen mystery series by David Adler.
Chapter books for the 6 – 9 or 7 – 10 year old group: Children in this group are learning to read. The vocabulary and storyline is expanding, but clarity is still a must. These books are designed to be read by the child and the word count is usually between 5,000 and 15,000. Interestingly, these books may be labeled as ‘early readers’ or ‘easy readers’ by educational publishers.
An example of a chapter book is Clarice Bean, that’s me by Lauren Child, another is Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.
In regard to Because of Winn-Dixie, the protagonist is ten years old. Since children tend to read-up (the protagonist will be 2 – 3 years older than the reader), the target audience is around 7 – 8 years old, placing it within this genre and possibly the younger end of middle grade.
Middle grade books for the 8-12 year old group: The middle-grader will go for stories that he can associate with and characters he can form a bond with. The word count is usually a minimum of 20,000.
As the child is able to comprehend more and is maturing, so should the stories. Stories and conflict can be more involved and you can now introduce more than one protagonist or point of view. This age group can also be introduced to science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries.
There are simpler middle grade books with less complex story lines and range from 20,000 to 35,000 words. And, there are the upper middle grade books that run from 40,000 to 55,000 words and are geared toward the 12 year old. This type of book might be considered a ‘tween’ book.
An example of a simpler middle grade book is Walking Through Walls by Karen Cioffi. The early Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling are also middle-graders.
Young adult books encompass the 12/13-16 and up age group. YAs can be edgy; plots and characters can be complex and serious issues addressed.
The word count for this genre can be between 55,000 and 80,000. The protagonist should be no older than 18.
An example of a young adult book is An Audience for Einstein by Mark Wakely. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer is also in the YA genre.
A useful way to get a better idea of what the different genres consist of is to visit your local library and talk to the children’s section librarian. She’ll be able to show you books in each genre and give you tidbits of information on which are the most popular, which are classic, and much more.