There is a lot of work that goes into writing a children’s book, from careful word choice and an understanding of education systems, to collaboration with illustrators, librarians, teachers, and other writers. I did some research and asked some of my author friends and colleagues to share their favorite resources for writing children’s books. Here are the top recommendations.
Every great picture book starts with an idea. So you know you want to write one, but you’re not sure where to start. Since there is so much art and illustration connected to children’s literature, I found that many authors seek inspiration from visual media, including art galleries. Here are a few good ones.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Eric Carle is one of the most well known picture book authors, with The Very Hungry Caterpillar selling more than 50 million copies worldwide. He illustrated more than 70 books, most of which he also wrote. The Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA has preserved a huge collection of his work. Their website is a treasure trove of resources and inspiration. From digital exhibitions, to tutorials, and even educational materials, there is much to explore and learn from.
R. Michelson Galleries
This is the largest commercial art gallery in Western Massachusetts. Their website has a beautiful ‘Illustration’ section, featuring work by Mo Willems, Peter Sis, Brain Collier, Matthew Cordell, and scores of other inspiring illustrators. When you’re done looking through the hundreds of illustrations on the site, you can visit their other sections; fine art, exhibits & Events, and others; all brimming with inspiration.
Virtual Museum Tours: I found this article that highlights 12 great virtual museum tours geared towards children. The Louvre, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Museum are just a few of those included, and you can explore them right now!
For Skill Development
All writers need to work on growing their skillset, even established and successful ones. A Great way to do this is to network, take classes, and work with other authors who are just as hungry to learn as you are.
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has chapters all over the world, and a fountain of resources are available. It does cost about $80-$95 a year to be a member, but members report that there are a ton of resources that make this cost more than reasonable, especially for new writers. SCWBI also offers great networking opportunities, local craft events, and critique groups. SCWBI is featured as one of the valuable Links for Writers on our website.
Looking to strengthen your skills and network with other authors? Grubstreet has great in-person classes as well as virtual ones. Among the authors I spoke to, the kidlit classes were some of their favorites!
Finding an Illustrator
Ok, so if you’re an artist as well as a writer, you might not need to worry so much about this step. However, if you aren’t, finding an illustrator that can help you bring your vision and your story to life might be the hardest part! Here are some websites that will help you network with illustrators and browse their work so you can find your perfect match!
On this website you can browse the work of featured artists, contact their representatives, check out illustrator news, and get inspired by recently published work. The main objective of the site is to pair illustrators with opportunities, and it does that job well.
Because Upwork is essentially a freelance talent market place, it’s full of creatives! When you search for illustrators on the site, you’re able to see their ratings, their rates, and how many jobs they’ve completed through Upwork. One advantage is that there is a range of experience levels, meaning there’s also a range of rates. Your budget will be grateful for the flexibility! You also have an opportunity to negotiate with and interview an illustrator before you hire them.
Thinking Like an Educator
Children’s authors have a special relationship with educators. Some of the resources I’ve already shared have great resources for building activity sheets and networking with folks, but there’s one key element that seems to be missing. In order to work with educators, you need to understand the methods they’re using to teach students to be young readers. Below are some resources that outline the leading strategies used in U.S. schools today.
Five Effective Strategies for Preschoolers
In this article from Daily Mom, the author outlines five major strategies for reading with preschoolers at home and in the classroom. Sounds, rhyming, and dramatic play are just a few key strategies you may want to keep in mind while writing your book.
Methods for Teaching Reading
In this article by Read and Spell, the author explains phonics, the whole-word approach, and the language experience method. The article also touches on pre-literacy skills, as well as reading challenges like dyslexia that some may face. Understanding how kids are learning to read will help you write books that make them stronger readers!
A Little Bit of Everything
These next resources all have a little bit of everything. I will admit that they’re not all pretty websites. They are, however, packed with useful information that covers every step of the writing and publishing process.
The Purple Crayon
A project by children’s book editor and former teacher, Harold Underdown, The Purple Crayon, maintains a list of award winning children’s books, children’s book reviews, articles on writing and illustrating children’s books, children’s book agents, and other resources.
Run by former literary agent, Mary Kole, Kidlit has resources to help you navigate children’s book markets, write better children’s books and find writers to network with.
Rachelle Burk’s Resources for Children’s Writers
This website, run by New Jersey children’s author, Rachelle Burk, provides a list of resources for anyone who wants to write for children. There are links to publishers, agents, craft tutorials, book reviewers, self-publishing resources, and more.