Yesterday, I baked. The muscles in my arms are sore from all the stirring I did. I am such a wimp.
* Why exactly are people who don't know the meaning of words like "surcease" or "abduction" and who think that only chickens can "cluck" trying to be writers? *twitch* Must not write snarky thank you note. *twitch*
You'd really think that the Harry Potter phenomenon would have made people realize that children are much more sophisticated readers than they think they are, and that kids enjoy being challenged instead of fed simplistic pap. And yet . . . *grumble*
On December 17th, 2005 03:11 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
I don't understand, either, but perhaps we're exceptions when it comes to evaluating based on the story and not how appropriate it is? I suspect people think of "children" as fresh-faced tots not yet approaching puberty or even a wisp of it?
Maybe the thing to do is to stop asking for them not to step back from mentioning the age-appropriateness for children, but instead, tell them what age group you feel it is best suited for? Or, have you tried that, too, and found that it doesn't work?
Not all children do well with material that a majority would deem proper for them. Some have progressed beyond the realm of their age guidelines on the shelves, and there's nothing wrong with having words in a story that are new to a reader. Minds need to be stimulated. Depending on who you are trying to reach, perhaps you could double-check the context surrounding those words in order to allow for understanding without immediately searching for the word in a dictionary? There's no way to guarantee that every reader will be a contextually-based genius, but it's likely enough will so that few are thrown from the tale when they hit a word they do not know.
In my mind, the best stories challenge without ejecting a reader from the world the author wished to create. This is something you and your intellect and talent are easily capable of- and have, indeed, shown your capacity for.
I've tried it all ways--explicitly stating an age range, leaving it vague, just saying its for younger readers, asking people not to comment on age appropriateness, not mentioning the intended age audience at all, etc. etc. No matter what, if I mention in any way that a story is intended for kids, I get folks complaining about the vocab. either that its too sophisticated or too simplistic (which I don't mind--those ones make me grin since those are usually the adult versions of the audience I'm aiming for). And if I don't state it at all, people complain that the story is too short. Kids works always have very tight word count constraints that I'm usually pushing anyway. I simply cannot extend a 2K story by another 1K.
The age-appropriateness of the vocabulary I utilize is simply not something I'm looking for feedback on in my children's works. If the editors of the publications I submit/sell to want to adjust the reading level of my works, that's their prerogative. After all, they know the reading interests of their target audience. But on my side of things, not only do I have an MA in Developmental Psychology and have co-authored a textbook resource on child development, but I don't believe in writing down to kids. I'm an adamant proponent of challenging them. Adults who don't know some of the "harder" words in my kids stories are walking, talking examples of what happens when people limit the opportunities children have to stretch their literary horizons.
*steps off soapbox*
Uh, sorry about the rant. I'm feeling snarky, and it's an issue I'm very outspoken about. The number of folks who massively underestimate the sophistication of children and think that literature intended for them shouldn't be challenging absolutely appalls me. Then again, so does the diminishing overall literacy rate . . . obviously a related statistic.
Age-appropriate themes: Hmm. I'm probably someone in the past who commented on that in one of your crits. Mea culpa!
Age-appropriate words: Oy. I once had a critter tell me that "Joe Six-Pack" wouldn't know what a colander was and that I should either find a simpler synonym or omit the reference entirely.
As the father of two rugrats now grown to annoying teenage-hood, I've always been an advocate of using contextural hints to expand a learner's vocabulary. My take on that is that while the piece shouldn't read like the NYT, having a few words where the child can derive their meaning from context ("he used the colander to drain the pasta") is totally appropriate and keeps the child from becoming too bored by a small-vocabulary work.
I saw that excellently demonstrated this summer when my kids ran out of reading material on vacation and were forced to translate Manga from Flemish and Dutch using a pocket dictionary. Since the dictionary only gave them the major words, they were forced to pick up the language from the context of the missing words (although this is much easier, obviously, with graphic novels).
Oh, I totally agree. Certainly, I picked up the majority of my vocabulary when I was a little girl and it was all due to reading words I'd never seen before in context (those stupid vocab. lists the schools gave us--not so helpful). The very best time for a person to acquire vocabulary words is when they're a child and their fast mapping abilities are still in effect. Children can learn new vocab. words after only a single exposure. What I wouldn't give to have that ability back again!
You are so right to be irritated at the "age appropriate comments." For one thing, although your posts are for a different reason, not everyone agrees with that current fixation on maturity and reading skill levels. I remember receiving a 5th grade reading evaluation that said I was reading at the level of a sophomore in college. My kid had similar reading skills at the same age. Plus, some parents, like me, don't want their kids' reading to be censored for any reason. And my kid is finishing his Masters so we can't be all wrong.
Congrats on all the story successes. I continue to blubber, "I knew her when." (And thanks for the recent help, too--lots of good market ideas for some of my other stuff in limbo.)
Totally agree! I think this trend of "reading level appropriate" folly in schools is utterly inane. Kids should be challenged and encouraged to read whatever suits their fancy. I saw a recent news blurb about the rising rate of illiteracy in America (including the number of illiterate college graduates!) and it just made me want to cry.
:chuckles: Well, I'm hoping my crit falls outside of this particular rant, since the question was directed at content and not vocabulary (we are writers. We are the ones who give children their vocabulary; if we use a limited vocabulary, they will, too. But enough of my rant), but just in case it didn't, many apologies!
Here's a thought: why mention the intended market at all? Why not just put the stories up and be done with it? You probably know better than most of us what is and isn't age-appropriate in today's market...why ask for remarks on it?
Your crits are always helpful, Keesa. I'm not particularly put out by folks concerned about topic-matter appropriateness, since that's so subjective. After all, I couldn't watch Sixth Sense all the way through with my eyes open until the third time I'd seen it, while my hubby was watching monster movies as a wee bairn and doesn't flinch at scenes portraying people being flayed alive. It's the people who are proponents of dumbing down the vocab. and writing that really irk me.
"Here's a thought: why mention the intended market at all?"
I've done that too, but I inevitably get complaints then about how simplistic the story is and told that I need to flesh it out by another thousand words or so. And since children's lit. has very tight word constraints, those sorts of comments are also useless to me. Sigh. I know, I'm being so picky, aren't I?
Your stories will be read by kids with intelligence, because they won't appeal to kids who are stupid. The intelligent kids know the words anyways, or are smart enough to use a dictionary if they don't know what the word means.
Apologies if I've ever said anything that makes you grind your teeth. I try to limit crits to "I'm not sure this works" and pointing out when I know people have used the wrong word.
My favourit wrong word is "nonplussed." I have no idea what people think it means, but I've seen it used in all sorts of situations where confusion is NOT being described.
Why exactly are people who don't know the meaning of words like "surcease" or "abduction" and who think that only chickens can "cluck" trying to be writers? *twitch* Must not write snarky thank you note. *twitch*
Because they have been told, since birth, that they can be "anything they want" and haven't had anyone who took writing seriously look at their actual ability. While I don't know surcease off the top of my head, how can you live in the world and not know abduction, and clucking is just a sound, anyone can do it.
These are the people trying to write who look like they failed high school English and you wonder why they think they can write. These are the people who water down writing as a whole, because they publish their junk online, continuing the impression that "anyone can write" and the impression that writing takes no ability at all.
Gah, ranting, aren't I?
I'm tired of kids books that are "simple" and don't challenge their reading ability. If you don't challenge them, they don't grow, simple as that. So they have to look up some words, guess what? They just learned some new words that they'd probably never otherwise have learned. Good. Since when is learning new things bad? Why can't reading be an exercise in learning, just because it's not a school book? Why does everything in life have to be easy?
God I could rant about this for years...