Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NEVER WRITE IT DOWN: Why We Should Never Underestimate A Child’s Ability To Understand by Eden Unger Bowditch

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?


  1. I think we all know this, Caroline and Faith. Kids are smart!

  2. Nay I say to writing down. That goes for anyone, not just children.

  3. The only thing I can add is that I've met some (NOT ALL, of course) parents who do underestimate what kids on average can comprehend/handle.

    I personally dealt with a lot of "Reverse Sexism" with some mothers of sons(None from the Mayhemer community, of course) commenting on my novel, Gabriel"" (Before it sold in 2012) who taught it was "Too sophisticated for boys" yet not for girls the same age!

    But NONE of the few men who beta-read this book (some of whom are fathers of sons, or teachers working in co-ed classrooms) had the same reservations.

    I say this not to belittle or scare the parents/writers (or teachers/writers) who don't do that to their kids/students, but to let authors (esp. newbies) know that sometimes we have to push back a little and do what we know in our hearts is right.

    There are things some kids now are doing at 12 I could NEVER have done when I was 12, which for me isn't "Forever and a day ago."

    Some of that is generational, some of it is more kids have access to programs and interventions (whether educational or recreational) than I did. It doesn't mean I'm hopeless out of touch, either. I'm probably more sensitive to this than most because I'm in a "Late Bloomer" in so many areas of life.

    Despite the "Life's a marathon not a sprint" rederrick I hear over and over and over and one more time over again, I just don't want to be 90 before things get better from where I am now.

    Don't mean to sound negative or overly whiny, but I'm just being honest here.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!