Every children’s book author dreams of a classroom full of kids, giggling, clapping, and generally adoring their book. But what does it take to be a “classroom book?” Well, there are standards of learning and curriculum, there are personal preferences of teachers and librarians, and reading levels. But one simple thing you can do to ensure your book is classroom (and just generally) ready is to do a little story map.
My daughter brought this home from first grade this week, and I asked her permission to share it. This is what first graders are doing with books! And we need to make sure they could do it with OURS.!
So, four boxes:
But here’s an idea. You know how we all like to read our work aloud to kids, to see if they like it? And when they say yes, our hearts are filled with rainbows and confetti and leaping unicorns? Well, the word on the street is, any kid will generally like something you read to them and/or wrote specially for them. (Don’t say that you have read your story to a child who loved it in your query or cover….it’s a big no-no!!) So instead, try taking this test: Read your story with a child, and see if they can fill out a story map.
If you are reading to a child that can’t yet read or write, try asking the questions aloud. Make sure they are following the story–especially the problem and solution. Ask questions to see if they can relate to the characters’ problems: Have you ever….? Do you ever feel….? What would you do? What do you think will happen? Get them engaged, and if their answers are way off or they’re confused, maybe you need to make some adjustments!
These kinds of questions can help you to know whether you’ve created something that works for kids and would work in a classroom. Kids are learning the basic elements of fiction in kindergarten and first grade! So we need to make sure we’re creating stories they can enjoy, learn from, relate to, and yes, even map.