Thursday I watched an interesting Ted Talk, What Adults Can Learn from Kids with Adora Svitak. Svitak makes some interesting points, especially for those of us who create for a younger audience. (My plan was to link to it but that funciton seems to be “limited” today, so I’ll imbed the video below.)
When adults get “creative,” they put limiters on it. Thus, the quotation marks. An idea that is too big or like something never seen before will often by labled impossible and be dropped. Adults look at how much something costs, weighing the cost benefits of an idea. They wonder how it will ultimately benefit them.
Young creators, in contrast, reach for the impossible. They consider whether an idea is fun or awesome over whether or not is plausible or practical. Kids think in terms of perfection (perfectly fun, perfectly amazing) and abundance (what if everyone could have X) where an adult would immediately look at how practical the idea is.
Given the differences between how adults and our young audiences think, it isn’t surprising that adults think in terms of limits and rules and what kids can handle. Svitak would appreciate it if we would just knock that off, thank you.
What does this have to do with our writing? This is me, not Svitak, talking but I have to imagine that she would encourage us to push our perceived limits. When writing (or illustrating) for young readers, consider the following:
What would make this story more fun? Silly? Laugh-out-loud fabulous?
What are my perceived limits where this story is concerned? Perhaps it has to do with what my reader would understand or who my characters are. What would happen if I stepped beyond that?
What would happen if instead of the current setting my story was set someplace extreme? Someplace high or low, hot or cold or simply out of this world?
What does my audience already know about this nonficiton topic? Why only that? How can I make my story bigger, better or more extreme? (While other kids were hearing The Wheels on the Bus, her father was reading them Pioneer Germ Fighters by Navin Sullivan. Yes, it is a book for young readers but it wasn’t a book for preschoolers.
What limits have you needlessly put on your audience and your work?