The manuscript I am currently drafting is for 3rd graders. I have to admit that it has been a while since I attempted this reading level. The last time was a hi-lo project which means I was written for middle graders at a 3rd grade level.
I just turned in two books that were written at an 8th grade level. In all reality, that’s my sweet spot.
So I was a little nervous. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help get it right.
Locate a Mentor Text
You need to start with a good feel for your reading level. To achieve this, I will start with a mentor text. That means that I need to find something written at the same reading level. But I also need to find the same type of book. If I’m writing nonfiction, I want a nonfiction menor text. For fiction? Obviously I look for fiction.
Type It Out
Once I find a mentor text, I don’t just read it. I really want to study it, so I type it out. That sounds like a bit much but it is a good way to get a feel for the sentence structure. When you type the mentor text out, you notice things that you don’t notice when you read. How many phrases are there in a sentence? Are there contractions? It also gives you a good feel for the variety of the sentences in the work.
Even if every sentence in a piece is subject + verb + object, you can find ways to work in variety. After all, if you are writing a book about bees, you don’t want every sentence to begin with “The bees” or “Bees.” You need to shake things up.
How do you do this? It depends on your topic. For bees, you might start a sentence with “The queen bee” or “worker bees.” The point is that you need to create as much variety as possible. It will keep your writing interesting and your reaeder interested.