Writing for Children of the 21st Century

How does one go about writing for today’s children? You could certainly survey to see what interest them. You can make assumptions based on the television shows that are popularly viewed by them. You could also not worry about them and write for yourself and hope the children like it.

I often wonder about the market for the 21st century children. I nanny and babysit for many families and have the pleasure of getting to know all the children’s interest. For at least six out of the nine boys that I have looked after, Minecraft (a video game about building that can literally go on for infinity) is very popular and is the topic of utterly stimulating conversation…for them not me. For five out of seven girls I watch over, ninja princesses, fully equipped with poisoned cupcakes, and Pet Palace are among the favorite interest/activities. While I applaud the creativity of these children, these favorite interest are too foreign of topics for me to write about. I know the most valuable advice is “know your audience”, but what happens when you don’t want to write for them? Thankfully, C.S. Lewis has some insight as to different ways to write for children. According to Maria Popova and C.S. Lewis in an article called “C.S. Lewis on the Three ways of Writing for Children and the Key to Authenticity in All Writing”,  there are three ways to write for children, two good, one bad. One good way is writing for a specific child/children. Many of us are aware that Lewis Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for a little girl named Alice. As was also the case for The Lord of the Rings written by Tolkien was specific for his children. Another good way that happened to be Lewis’ preference, ” consists of writing a children’s story because a children’s story is the best art-form for something you have to say: just as a composer might write a Dead March not because there was a public funeral in view but because certain musical ideas that had occurred to him went best into that form…Where the children’s story is simply the right form for what the author has to say,”.  The last way, and according to Lewis, is the bad way to write for children is simply writing for the children, Lewis states, “Children are, of course, a special public and you find out what they want and give them that, however little you like it yourself.”

All of the ways C.S. Lewis describes present amazing possibilities and cause for concern. I know that I could try and write about the popular topics such as ninja princesses who carry poisoned cupcakes but whether I would enjoy writing it remains a mystery. I could also write what I like and hope children like it. If nothing else maybe I could write a story for just one child and hope it becomes favorable to other children too.

If you would like to read further about the different methods C.S. Lewis has on writing for children, check out his book, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories.




2 thoughts on “Writing for Children of the 21st Century

  1. rdomitz February 19, 2015 / 5:11 pm

    How about when children’s literature transcends its own audience? Books like twilight or the hunger games are arguably teen oriented novels, yet its readers encompass a large proportion of the adult population. Even Harry Potter or Tolkien’s LOTR, are popular examples of children’s literature that engages a larger audience. For me at least, the distinction of children’s literature versus adult literature draws a fuzzy line. More often than not, I think when an author writes sometimes their own diction and syntax inadvertently determine the audience.
    Are children’s book necessarily the one’s about children? No, Catcher in Rye, the Outsiders, and Lord of the Flies are a couple examples of books about children, with anything but elementary themes or language. Perhaps it is the complexity of an underlying plot that generally flies by younger audiences? But that wouldn’t explain religious allusory subtext existent in the Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter. Why make allusions the audience might not understand? I honestly haven’t a clue to the answer, but I find the notion to be thought provoking nonetheless.


    • nastashatorrez February 23, 2015 / 7:57 am

      I completely agree that there is a very fine line for children’s literature and adult. I think that is the beauty of it though, no matter your age the story can still captivate and provide enjoyment.
      I think that by not providing the symbolism, underlying plot, and themes would make the books not worth re-reading. There are plenty of people who choose to re-read books and by doing so, especially a couple or even more years down the road, the once child now adult will grasp all the allusions and come to appreciate the books more and realize there is plenty to learn from re-reading.


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