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Part 2, Project 1 – Exercise: Writing for different age groups

The titles in the course notes have got suggested ages against them. I have looked through them all and have the following thoughts:

Hugo Pepper – Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell (7+):
I was surprised this was for 7 year olds and upwards. It struck me that although the storyline suits a younger audience, the language is a little more demanding than other book titles I saw for this age group. There are some charming hand-drawn illustrations, and plenty of chapters to divide the story up, but I would argue this should be at least 8-9+ year olds.

Stormbreaker – Anthony Horowitz (9+):
I think this should be for a 12+ age group. There are hardly any pictures, there are17 chapters but they’re all quite lengthy, and the language is quite challenging for a 9 year old age group.

Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy (9+):
30 chapters, a lengthy title but a storyline and use of language that I would suggest is more appropriate to 12+ year olds.

Private Peaceful – Michael Morpurgo (9+):
I was surprised to see this within this age group; I would have placed it 12+. That said, there were many Morpurgo titles in the bookshop within this fiction age group. The subject matter, whilst gritty and dealing with war, is engaging. There are no illustrations and title lines instead of chapter numbers. The text is small but so is the book – the size one could fit into a pocket, which does entice smaller hands. I suppose it could work for the more fluent 9 year old but I personally would be happier seeing it in the higher age group.

Little Darlings – Jacqueline Wilson (8-12):
13 chapters, a storyline of two pubescent girls who are friends and exploring different emotional reactions to situations. I think this is perfectly catergorised for the 8-12 year age group. It’s a lengthy book, the language is detailed and conversational, there are no illustrations as such. The subject matter ties it into the age group perfectly for me.

Blood Ties – Sophie McKenzie (12+):
This is the thickest book and at 86 chapters, really does feel weighty. The storyline is complex and demands a lot from its young reader. This is perfectly suited to it’s recommended age category. There are no illustrations and relies soley on the reader to create the images for themselves.

When considering writing for different age groups, there are identifiers that target the text to a particular audience.

Hugo Pepper (7+):
Paragraph lengths: 5 lines
Sentence lengths: 15 words longest, 5 words shortest
Word length: 10 character longest
Use of colloquial words, exclamations: None
Perspective/viewpoint: Narration – third person

Stormbreaker (9+):
Paragraph lengths: 6 lines
Sentence lengths: 17 words longest, 2 words shortest
Word length: 10 character longest
Use of colloquial words, exclamations: None
Perspective/viewpoint: Narration – third person

Private Peaceful (9+):
Paragraph lengths: 5 lines
Sentence lengths: 10 words longest, 8 words shortest
Word length: 10 character longest
Use of colloquial words, exclamations: None
Perspective/viewpoint: First person
Blood Ties (12+):
Paragraph lengths: 4 lines
Sentence lengths: 16 words longest, 1 word shortest
Word length: 12 character longest
Use of colloquial words, exclamations: Frequent
Perspective/viewpoint: First person

Using these notes, I now need to create my own opening page targeting a specific age group. I’m going to imagine writing for the 12+ age group; it strikes me as the most flexible and has more room to be creative….

My arm was sore from yesterday’s discussions with Barry.

Barry.

Just saying his name in my head made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
However, the thought of seeing my new special friend after school made me smile. I had only met them once before but I knew that we had the potential for a long-lasting friendship. My only problem was this: could I trust him?

Perhaps today would be a better day.

“Get over here, you little idiot!”

Perhaps it wouldn’t be.

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Part 2, Project 1 – Exercise: Classifying by target age group

I visited my library and local bookshop again to look more closely at how they classify age groups for children.

In the library, they have a distinct younger child and teen zone, but the remaining books for children are categorised by author. I queried this and a member of staff remarked at how being a new library has perhaps changed their approach to labelling the books in this area. However, she confirmed that in their old library, childrens’ books were grouped by age – I left her considering this point and she was going to discuss with the Children’s Librarian as to the feasibility of getting this changed. I have requested a meeting with the children’s librarian to understand more closely the types of books they hold.

At the bookshop, they were far clearer about how they marketed books for different age groups. I noticed the following areas:

1) Learn to read 5-8 year
2) Fiction 5-8
3) Fiction 9-12
4) Teen fiction
5) Classics

There was also a large section for pre-school with lots of colourful titles and pictures books on offer.

In the “Learn to Read 5-8 year” section there were many series-style titles each offering stories at different levels that progress children through from beginner to fluent reader. The following series stood out:

“Learn to Read with Biff, Chip & Kipper”
“Oxford Reading Tree”
“DK Readers series” – (pre level 1 – proficient reader level 4)
“Kingfisher Readers” – (level 1-5)
“Ladybird Keywords”
“Ladybird Tales”
“Banana Books” – (green: 3 short stories, blue: simple stories, red: chapter books for the newly fluent)

Of the Kingfisher books, I looked at a Level 1 title: “Trains”.
There is no main character; it is purely factual about what trains can do, where they go, how they work. They are very simple with short, 5-10 word sentences. Photos support the text. There are no chapters.

Their level 4 “Pirates” book is still factual but they introduce headings (still no chapters) and more text to read. The language has moved on and become more involved. The book asks the reader questions and involves them more. There are colour drawings to support the text.

The Ladybird Tales series hav a page of text with a full page colour illustration to support the text. The stories are simplified versions of famous classic stories such as “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Peter Pan”, “Puss in Boots”, “Wizard of Oz”. The language is still very simple with very short sentences.

In the “Fiction 5-8” section, the stories broaden out and more stand-alone stories feature. However, the age group is predominantly taken up with series titles.

The most striking range of titles in a series within this group appears to be Adam Blade’s “Beast Quest” books. I counted 72 different titles but there could be more. These are broken down into 12 series, each series comprising of 6 titles. Each series has a different quest. The stories are fantasy adventures. The title I looked at centred around a lead wizard character who takes the reader on an adventure throughout an imaginery world. The text is large but there are lots of words. There are hand-drawn pictures throughout but not on every page, but interestingly (and perhaps to encourage children to read and collect the entire series) are collectible trump cards at the back of each book. Some of the newer titles stated on the cover that collectible stickers were included.

Enid Blyton makes an appearance at this age group and there were her “Magic Faraway” stories, all based around a small group of children who go on an adventure to the Land of Dreams. The books have many chapters (around 25), with hand-drawn illustrations. The text has become smaller with more conversation and definitely more words.

“Rainbow Magic” by Daisy Meadows is another large series of books in this age group. To encourage collections to build up, the spines of the books once set out on a bookshelf in the right order create a picture. Very clever.
They are colourful and aimed at girls, with the storylines centred around girls who meet up and go on fairy adventures.

The “Horrid Henry” series by Francesca Simon targets the male market with its numerous stories centred around a naughty child called Henry. The topics of the stories are very varied, ranging from nits, getting rich quick, revenge and robbing a bank! All very appealing topics for little boys.

In the next age range, “Fiction 9-12” category, the storylines become a little more varied and interesting.

Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” series was the first set of books I looked at, a range of books all centred around a group of five children who get up to all sorts of adventures in their summer holidays – going to a treasure island, running away, going to camp, going to the sea, having “plenty of fun”. The language has become quite in-depth now with small text and only a few illustrations dotted throughout. There are still quite a few chapters (over 10 on average).

Another series was Chris Bradford’s “Young Samurai” stories, all quite considerably thicker titles than the other books viewed, and all centred around a young male character who learns the art of martial arts from his Samurai teacher. Lots of chapters – 43 in the title I looked at – divide the story into bite-sized, manageable sections. The language is more involved, longer words, more dialogue, and more exotic locations (Japan).