Thursday, May 3

Treating Kids Like Experts (by Becca Lee Gardner)

Hello all! I've got a bit of a unique and special guest post today. Becca Lee Gardner has authored a book that targets an audience I'm often rallying behind: the between-ers. You know what I mean. The above easy readers but below big chapter books. The ones that really do need more options. We need to flood this market with book selections. And here Ms. Gardner is doing that with an original book series that's not actually quite published yet--it's a Kickstarter project. Check it out:

The Forest Glows
(The Hybrid World #1)
Written by Becca Lee Gardner, illustrated by Andrew Bosley

See the Kickstarter project here

THE FOREST GLOWS is a story of Milo trying to find his brother after an alien ship crashes into the Amazon Rainforest and the impact begins to change the forest into a hybrid of the alien world and Earth. Milo gains an ally in his search, a black jaguar, who has also lost something since the crash.

This is book 1 of 6 in this series!

Treating Kids Like Experts 

By Becca Lee Gardner

Kids are experts in story and imagination.

Ask a kid what they are drawing. Or to explain why something works the way it does. Or why there is a new scribbling of black marks on their bunk bed. Stories. Kids will tell innocent stories. Kids will take a world they don’t quite understand and piece it together with a story. And kids will sometimes tell the kind of stories that are crafted out of a moment of desperation. Kids experience their world through stories and so, even at a young age, they are experts in them.

My 2-year-old is convinced that the washing machine makes noise because there is a bad guy in there. And no matter how many times we explain or show otherwise, she remains convinced. This kind of imagination is a child’s constant companion. Not just with scarier things, but with normal things. Every clothes hanger in my house has doubled as some kind of weapon (bow, ax, grappling hook, etc.). For them, the line between the physical world and the imaginary one is as fine as tissue paper. Kids visit their imaginations more regularly and with more devotion. They are the true experts in imagination.

Can a literary diet of solely licensed stories satisfy these experts?

No. Not long term. Like substituting fruit snacks for fruit, licensed books might have junk-food appeal, but cannot sustain them.


Well, licensed books for kids are half marketing, half literature (and that’s a conservative proportion). They introduce you to Captain America so that you’ll buy his toys and watch his movies. The books that do move beyond an encyclopedia-style prose give sterilized versions of TV, movie, or comic plots.

So, kids can pick between learning stats of characters and reading a dumbed-down plot with no real characters in them. And that’s just not good storytelling. But, then again, licensed works don’t NEED good storytelling. They just need the kids to recognize a character and the kids will stuff the library bag full of them.

These books don’t treat kids like experts. They treat kids like consumers. And eventually, kids become bored of them.

I saw this in my 7-year-old recently. When we visited the library, he refused to peruse the early reader section. Skipped it entirely and went over to the middle-grade chapter book section. He sat in the aisle with piles of chapter books all around him. He talked about the stories there, the magic and wonder. The real stories. The rampant imagination.

He was sick of the licensed stuff. He was bored of the dumbed-down plots. He wanted substantial stories.
But as he cracked these books open, he became discouraged once more. He tried to read these books, but they were too long. He didn’t understand what was happening. He wanted to access bigger and better storytelling, but the door was still shut to him.

I talked to librarians and teachers and parents and I discovered that my son was not alone. Many, many, many other kids were having the same struggles. There just isn’t much in the way of epic stories that kids can access before chapter books. And the literary landscape between early reader books and chapter books is a barren desert with very few oases.

So, I got to writing my first Bite-Size Epic. 30-40 pages. 7 chapters. 18 full-color illustrations. All the story and imagination of original science fiction and fantasy, made bite-size (not dumbed down), for early readers.

Licensed fiction was not sustaining my son. He was starving for a substantial story he could access himself. And I’m willing to work my tail off if only to give it to him (and many more kids), one bite at a time.

Becca Lee Gardner is an author and writer of many things, from novels to short stories, comics to screenplays. She is a happy wife and the mom of three little ones. She admits that her first nerd-love was Star Wars, though accepts nerd status about LOTR, EXTINCT and Wonder Woman, as well. You can learn more at or follow her on Twitter @beccaleeg.

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