Recently, I was speaking to class in writing for children. One student asked about ‘writing down’ for YA/MG readers. Ouch.
I have never written ‘down’ to reach my readers. If a word is difficult, but necessary, I want to be sure my readers understand them so I may offer an integrated explanation as part of the story. But writing down? I have memories of being spoken to by adults in voices that were pedantic and slow and made me wonder if there was something wrong with me. While the Young Inventors Guild books are often read by kids 10-15, I have never had a single kid complain about them being too difficult. It is true that I have had adults (who are never teachers, librarians, writers, parents, or friends of children) complain that kids will not ‘get it’ or the writing is ‘above grade level’ but anyone who knows kids understands that, with the exception of certain subject matter, kids do get it.
Unless we are going to discuss phenomenology and Heidegger’s ideas of world-forming and experiential truth and existence or Kant’s epistemology or Einstein’s theory of relativity, having a background in reading should be enough to get through a good book. Kids are smarter than (non-teachers/non-librarians/non-writers/non-parents/ non-friends of children) give them credit for being. Children can grasp complex ideas and profound explorations into humanity (um…Harry Potter? Dr. Seuss?) and of
fering, to their avail, texts that elicit forth these questions and get readers to think are the best kinds of texts.
As writers, lets remember who our audience really is. It is made up of intelligent, interested, thoughtful readers who want to be a part of a journey. We must assume capacity and not frailty and bring them along on an adventure that demands but engages. Those readers, whatever age, want to get something back from the time they spend in that book and have fun doing it. Don’t we all?