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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Teacher's Guide for Your Children's Book

I took a class in writing teacher's guides at the Muse Online Writer's Conference. I'll never start another children's book without one. In fact, I think I'll lay out the teacher's guide first.

A teacher's guide adds value to your book for teachers (obviously), home schooling parents, and plain old parents. Though many authors charge a fee for teacher's guides, I'm offering the Teacher's Guide to Logical Larry on my website at no cost. Why not charge? Because I want people to buy the book, and people are more likely to purchase something if it comes with a bonus. Even if they download the ebook to Kindle for $0.99 instead of purchasing the hard copy, they still get the guide for free.

How do you write a teacher's guide?

First decide what age group your book targets. I aimed Logical Larry at the 4th grade level. The Reading Tub (a site that reviews books for parents) rates it as a read along for ages 7-10 and a read alone for ages 11-13. Fourth Grade is somewhere in the middle.

Next, get your state's educational content standards for that grade. You can probably find them online. I used California because I live here and because I was told they are one of the highest in the country. You can provide standards for more than one state if you like. Maybe you live in California but the book takes place in Illinois. That's two target markets, so I would provide standards for both states.

One thing you'll notice is that educational standards are sometimes vague. Talk to a teacher about how they follow the guidelines. The teachers I spoke to agreed that the standards were sometimes difficult to apply, and teachers in my area are willing to mix different grade standards into their classes. In fact, it was a teacher who recommended my book be used by fifth grade children who are having difficulties reading at the appropriate level. The subject matter will appeal to those above elementary level, but the book is short enough that it won't intimidate slow readers.

If you are writing for elementary and middle grades, it's also helpful if you can includes standards for several subjects. If you have the children write a report about the geography of the book's location, it may meet a Natural Science standard. Many times teachers cross-teach subjects, and the more standards your teacher's guide covers, the more helpful it can be.
Not only will a teacher's guide be appreciated by adults, but it will help you as a writer. I mentioned writing the guide first. Here are the benefits:

  •  If you include a vocabulary test or game, you can ask a teacher for a list of the words they plan to cover this year and include them in your text.
  • Looking at the guidelines will give you ideas to include in your book. The next Logical Larry I write will include more about the geography and wildlife in my fictional town that can transfer into games and essays for the Teacher's Guide.

Some other things to remember when writing your guide:

  • Keep it fun. Teachers especially liked the colorful pages that included pictures and the exercises disguised as games.
  • Test your book and Teacher's Guide on an actual class. Most teachers are happy to have additional materials to go over with their students, and you'll get feedback from your intended audience. I sent the book to a teacher along with a brief questionnaire for the children to complete. Their answers surprised me and I made changes to the book as a result.
  • Make it easy for teachers and parents to get hold of. As I said, my teacher's guide is available as a download, but if your guide is long, it's sometimes cheaper for the teacher to order hard copies than it is to make copies for themselves.
  • Don't forget to include the answer key!

Just remember to enjoy the process. You're helping kids to learn, and learning should be fun!

1 comment:

  1. Great blog, informative, helpful. I'm just beginning my quest to have a couple of stories I've written be published - and my quandry is: I am not sure what age group it fits in! It's story that lends itself to strong illustration, and I think kids from age 7 or so would like it -- and also I have told the story many times to adults and they like it too. I am ready to send out to publishers, but have been stopped by this question. Can you help? My website is: caitlinhicks.com Thanks so much!

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