Early Readers & Chapter Books Defined at SCBWI Conference

Above photo of Kristin courtesy of Okie Book Woman :)

Day 2 of the SCBWI Oklahoma Spring Conference Re-cap

Kristin Daily editor at Harper Collins--my personal favorite speaker--covered a topic I'm most interested in now mainly since the book I've written falls into this category. She gave concrete details on what defines a chapter book and early reader. I have not been able to find information this specific before now which means this session alone was worth the price of admission.

Easy to Read books are generally 32-48 pages and are very structured. The primary goal of an easy reader is to put the first book into a child's hands that they can read on their own. ETR are not intended to be used in or with education texts, but often they are. ETR books generally come in one trim size (6" X 9"), and the font is usually a large 36 pt. Times New Roman. The content of the book is key despite the highly structured nature of the book--in other words, writing a good story is still the most important aspect of the book. Vocabulary is important, but the occasional difficult word is okay to include as long as the context clues surrounding the word make it easier for the child to define. 

Also, along the lines of plot, ETR stories always center on the child. ETR stories are mainly told through dialogue and action. There is very little description, and the story should jump right into the action from the get-go. The sentence structure should be simple, but, as Kristin pointed out, this does not mean it has to be short choppy sentences (because that constitutes a boring story). 

Illustrations for ETR are literal and concrete. Their purpose is to help the reader decipher the words in the text.


Chapter Books are a little different. The general audience of chapter books are children ages 6-10. The youngest chapter books start at about 60-70 book pages (about 5,000-6,000 words). The older chapter books (riding a fine line with midgrade novels) range from 9,000-10,000 words and generally have about 140 book pages. 

CB generally have some black and white illustrations. Their plot is simple and does not include a lot of struggle. Generally the main character is over the top such as Captain Underpants. Kristin cited Bruce Hale's Underwhere series as a great place to look for quality writing in this genre.

Thank you, Kristin, for such a helpful and informative session. As I said at the conference, I'll be sending you something soon :)

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