Fifteen years ago, I wrote a children’s book to teach the seven continents to my second-grade students who could not imagine a world outside of their own community. Amy’s Travels became the first children’s picture book to teach all seven continents. Based on the true story of my college suitemate Amy, the example of Latina children’s literature has been used in homes, schools, and events in over twenty-six countries on six continents. The book has even been turned into a musical by the Latin Ballet of Virginia. This November, Amy’s Travels will celebrate her quinceanera-just another milestone that shows how children’s books never go out of style.
Think about your favorite children’s book. Is it a new title or a classic? When this question is asked to adults today, common answers include titles by Dr. Seuss, the Berenstain Bears series, or another classic book like Charlotte’s Web or The Giving Tree. Children’s books are a sense of comfort that provide us with feelings of happiness and joy. I often call our favorite children’s books “comfort books” because like comfort food, we often have a positive memory associated with the title.
Children’s books are often written to teach a life lesson and are a powerful learning tool. When we can read books about characters that look or act like us and have life experiences similar to us, we are learning something. It could be problem solving, perspective, or possibility. As a literacy specialist, I encourage teachers to implement children’s books and stories to teach content, social issues, and character development. As a publisher, I publish engaging and educational children’s books that can easily support an educational curriculum and fill a need. Therefore, I have published books about teaching reading for parents and teachers as well as a children’s book about recycling and more recently a children’s travel series. While I originally chose to publish the children’s book series to promote travel and global awareness, it is now appropriate to provide children with the ability to travel through the pages of the book while the travel industry around the world has changed dramatically since the pandemic. Thanks to these books, families can visit London, Paris, and New York City during the holiday season from the comfort of their home.
I believe the best children’s books are titles that meet the needs of many people and scenarios. For example, while Amy’s Travels clearly teaches geography, it also happens to be one of the few children’s books representing the LatinX community, since the main character and protagonist is a Peruvian girl. Our book Turtle About a Home is used to teach recycling as well as conservation, litter prevention, and animal ecosystems. When a book can serve a dual purpose, its value significantly increases, and there is always a new audience to enjoy the story. About 140 million babies are born every single year; these babies become our newest and youngest readers as they enter kindergarten. This means we automatically have 140 children that haven’t heard about the children’s books we have written and published. Do you want to write a children’s book? Through creative storytelling and marketing, your children’s book will never go out of style. Here are five tips to ensure your book remains relevant.
1. Fill a need in the children’s book industry
Everyone has a story to tell. The key is to find a story that is missing in the children’s book industry. When I was teaching, I went to the library searching for a fictional story about the seven continents and could only find nonfiction books for each continent. I ended up checking out seven books instead of one. That prompted me to write Amy’s Travels. My children’s book became the first picture book to teach the seven continents. What is a topic you believe we need to talk more about? How many books currently exist on the subject matter? Filling a need or gap in any book industry is impactful. In the children’s book industry, a book that becomes a necessity may also become a classic as the titles outlive the authors who wrote them.
2. Create an event or use a holiday to celebrate your book
Even if an author writes an exceptional book, marketing is the most powerful tool to make the book relevant and popular. An author should look closely at all of the angles of a book and determine how it can best be promoted and shared with the public. If you write a book about turtles, use World Turtle Day to celebrate and consider marketing the book to a local aquarium or nature center. Since Amy’s Travels celebrates her quinceanera this year, the title is a part of events for Hispanic Heritage Month. I wrote a book called Tackle Reading and to bring the book to life, I created Tackle Reading day. This annual event is now supported by the NFL to promote a love of literacy with a passion for football. Each year, more and more teachers and students participate in the event and learn about the book as a result.
3. Determine how your book best supports the educational sector
The educational market is a wonderful place for your children’s book to make a difference. Every classroom and every elementary school library across the country can benefit from a book. Teachers and librarians are always on the lookout for a new title to share with children. Does your book match an element of academic curriculum? Does your book teach character traits, character development or match social emotional learning? When you learn the current trends in education, you can produce a book that supports what is already in place. My company creates book guides and lesson plans for every book we publish or consult on. This makes your book stand out as a must-have resource for the classroom. I am always looking for academic focused titles to add to my professional development session entitled Teaching with Trade Books.
4. Become a guest writer or speaker for your target audience or cause
As an author you become an expert on your journey as a writer or on the topic you have written about, whether it is fiction or nonfiction. What is the story behind your book? What inspired you to write this book? These are the type of questions you want to think about and pitch yourself to be a guest speaker for book clubs, rotary clubs, and writing conferences. You are also the perfect guest to speak at school book fairs or literacy events. You should also consider positioning yourself as a contributing writer for educational or parenting blogs. Did you write a story about a child refusing to go to bed? You can write an article about the secrets to putting your child to sleep or the importance of a bedtime routine.
5. Use your book to give back to your community or world
Giving the gift of reading is one of most important things you can give to a child. Donating your books to low-income schools or nonprofits that support literacy is one way to give back. You can also think about a cause that is personal to you or that is discussed in your book or relates to your book. A Valentine’s Day themed book could be used to give proceeds back to the American Heart Association. Our most recent children’s book publication, Two Mice in New York: A Holiday Adventure, was part of a Christmas in July “Pay it Forward” project. Whenever two books were purchased together, one of the books was donated to the child of a nurse in New York City hospitals who were on the front lines in the fight against Covid-19. Spreading awareness about a greater cause through storytelling is powerful. Customers love to support authors and publishing companies who are philanthropic. Consider how you can make an impact in your community or special cause cause beyond the book.
My educational publishing company is always looking for new educational and engaging children’s books, and these are the five points we especially look for when taking on a new title. Do you have a story in your head? How can you make it a book that will make the difference in the life of a child, classroom, or community? I’m looking forward to reading it soon!
Kathryn Starke is the author of Amy’s Travels, Tackle Reading, and A Touchdown in Reading: An Educator’s Guide to Literacy Instruction. She is the founder of award-winning educational publishing company, Creative Minds Publications. Visit www.creativemindspublications.com to learn more.