Children’s Writing Weblog

How to Write Self-Help Pieces for Children’s Magazines

Posted on: September 14, 2009

Unlike their parents, when children look for advice they don’t usually turn to Oprah. Most kids get everyday, self- improvement info from children’s magazines. If you’re bursting with ideas for articles on how to teach kids to help themselves or develop new skills, here are some tips:

* Select a topic based on your audience and age group Each magazine has a clear focus–some are health-related, others might concentrate on the activities of a specific organization. Make sure your advice fits with the magazine’s editorial slant. Also, pay attention to the age of the targeted audience. A piece on why spreading gossip is a bad thing is relevant to teen and preteen readers. An article about being a responsible pet owner could appeal to any age group, depending on how it’s written. So check out potential markets before you sit down to write.

* Don’t preach. You’re giving advice, so it’s tempting to lecture or preach to the reader. Don’t. You’ll lose your audience faster than you can say Dr. Phil. rather, acknowledge what your readers face in their lives and let them know you’re on their side. “The hard truth is, sharing DNA with your siblings is no guarantee that you’re always going to like each other,” is a better approach to an article about resolving sibling rivalry than, “Brothers and sisters are supposed to love each other. Fighting just drives your parents crazy. Let it go!”

* Don’t try to sound “hip.” Use a normal conversational tone when writing self-help for kids, as if you’re speaking to agroup of them in person. Don’t toss in slang or pop references unless they routinely roll off your tongue. On the other hand, opening your article with an anecdote, unusual statement, or humorous question can be an attention- grabber. Just make sure those anecdotes are about other kids, and don’t begin with, “When I was your age….”

* Talk directly to the reader. This is one of those rare situations where the second person point of view works. Address the readers directly (The first time you walk into a new school, you may feel nervous. You might even think everyone’s looking at you. Don’t worry–all new students feel this way.) Put the readers right into the article so they can see how your advice can be useful in their lives.

* When possible, combine the advice with a “how-to” approach. After explaining to the readers how to make an improvement in their lives, show them. Either as part of the article or as a standalone sidebar, give how-to, step-by-step instructions that can be seen at a glance. For example, if you’re writing a piece for teens on being financially aware, you can include a how-to sidebar on finding a summer job, complete with tips for filling out applications and doing interviews.

Use other self-help and advice articles in your targeted magazine markets as templates for how you should write your article. Pay attention to style, length, and whether the information is presented in small bites or large chunks. Then unleash your best advice, and one day you too may be on Oprah!

Laura Backes is the publisher of Children’s Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children’s Writers. For more information about how to write children’s books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children’s Book Insider’s home on the web at http://write4kids.com and the CBI Clubhouse at http://cbiclubhouse.com

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