I spent a lot of time pool side this weekend and ended up talking to fellow swim team parents that I don’t see very often. I compared work stories with one of the dads who asked what I had been writing. He nodded sagely as I explained the Dakota Access Pipeline book and the media literacy book. Then I mentioned the Electoral College.
He said, “That must have been really hard to dumb down.”
“No.” Inhale four, exhale six. Stall for time. Frame your response. “That’s what you do if you want the editor to bounce it back. You just have to figure out how to explain it so that the reader can relate. And you have to do it without blowing your reading level.”
If you writing for children, please, please, please do not dumb things down. Do. Not.
Kids are smart. They are set on “maximum learning.” If you write children’s nonfiction, it is your job to give it to your reader in managable bites.
Dumb it down and you make it clear that you don’t respect them. You aren’t sure they can handle it. Bad. Just bad. Don’t do that.
Does this mean that you can write about absolutely anything for young readers. No. Just . . . no.
Some things aren’t age appropriate. Other things just won’t interest them.
Astronomy for a preschooler? Day and night. The earth moving around the sun.
Astronomy for an early grade schooler? Planets and moons. The different characteristiccs of different planets.
By the time you get to high schoolers you can write about the chemistry involved. Physics, biology and systems all play a part.
Come up with a topic that matches your readers interests and age level and you won’t have to dumb down a thing. In fact you might find yourself hurrying to catch up.