So You Want to Write for Kids by Tina Tocco

Terabithia. Green Gables. Hogwarts. Walnut Grove.

Our youth is often defined by the books we pored over in the school cafeteria or insisted on reading “just one more page” late on a school night. Whether your worlds were fantasy, historical, dystopian, or something else, I’ll bet they’re deep in those still-existent childhood recesses of your brain. The pages of those past days might have acted as a home away from home, a place with fantastical friends, a place with more excitement, a world to get lost in.

So I’m never surprised when a new student tells me, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel for kids” or “I want to get these stories down on paper for my grandchildren.”

Children’s literature is more than just “kiddie stories.” Yes, they’re very different from adult stories in many ways, but the underlying themes—friendship, the triumph of good, young love, grief—transcend genres for adults or kids. Our childhoods expanded with the first kiss, first friend, first loss of so many characters who we learned from and rooted for.

So is it any shock that so many people want to carry the torch to the next generation of readers?

People say “times change,” but despite social media, apps, and AI, what kids go through—and love to read about—hasn’t changed so dramatically. I don’t care if it’s E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web or Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret or Rita Williams-Garcia’s Gaither Girls trilogy, kids are kids, and their growing-up problems and their parental problems, their problems with confidence and their problems with relationships—these are the things kids want to read about. Need to read about. Books are often their compass and map (or, okay, GPS) to get them around the potholes known as Life.

If you’re one of those people who’s had an idea for a children’s book or story bubbling in your brain, the one you think about but don’t voice, or maybe are trying to get down a bit at a time, you’re not alone. So many of us want young readers to picture themselves on the page, let them see they’ll come out the other side. If we’re lucky, we’ll even entertain them while we’re doing it.

In my experience, children’s literature is the most fun genre there is (that’s why I work in it!). Whether I’m recalling a past injustice or escapade, it’s always exciting and cathartic and…it’s just plain fun, people!

If you’d like to learn more about writing for kids and spend a few afternoons working on the beginnings of stories, I hope you’ll join me for my two-session workshop Writing for Kids 101 on Saturday, February 17 and 24 from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.


Tina Tocco’s work for children has been published in Highlights, Cricket, Humpty Dumpty, AppleSeeds, Odyssey, Pockets, and other magazines. Her children’s poetry collection, The Hungry Snowman and Other Poems, was released by Kelsay Books in 2019. Her short story “The Unknown Soldier” will appear in the middle-grade ghost story anthology Haunted States of America (Macmillan, 2024). A Manhattanville College MFA graduate, Tina is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a PAL member of SCBWI.

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