Last week, our church sponsored a Family Story Time for the families at our preschool. If you’re a picture book writer, you need to find something like this so that you can spy.
First I watched the kids while Julie read a book about a wild romp through the house — Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas. The animals start out by jumping on chicken’s sofa. Chicken is less than thrilled with this idea. Jumping thwarted leads to dancing, leads to wiggling, etc. Finally, Julie asked the kids. “What do you think they’re going to do next?”
“Jump on the bed!” yelled one young listener. This response caught on quickly so I didn’t get the others but WOW. The energy that went into listening to this story. They were transfixed but they were absolutely never still — something the author clearly knew would be the case.
Next she played a game with the kids. It was a little like Simon Says in that the kids had to copy some goofy, wiggling activity. This one was a lesson in what they understood vs what they didn’t. Stomping? Awesome! Marching? They had no clue but quickly copied what she was doing.
These kids LOVED books and stories and having fun. But they had the attention spans of . . . preschoolers. If you don’t understand why publishers want books that are 500 words or LESS, then you need to observe a preschool story time.
If you do, you’ll come way with a much better understanding of what your audience wants out of a book and what will keep them happy.