Wednesday 26 February 2014

Categories Of Children Books

There are several different types of children book categories and sub-categories. The writing style and word count is different in each type of category. The following list is a general guideline of the categories, and these guidelines may vary by publisher.

Board books/ Toy books:  Ages newborn to 3 years. These books are for the youngest of listeners and are meant to engage their minds in learning with textures, pop ups, flaps, noise makers, and lively illustrations. The words in these books are more about the sound they make when spoken by the reader. These books can have one word or just a few words per page.

Toddler books/ Concept books: Ages 3 - 5 years. Introducing basic learning through shapes, colors, alphabets, animals, and people, these books have a stronger emphasis on the words than the previous category.  The images and interaction of the book are still the main focus for the child. These books average 200 - 300 words and are often in the form of the board book format.

Early picture books:  Ages 4 - 6 years. Often referred to as picture story books, these are books written to be read to preschool and kindergarten children. The words are still simple but more intriguing with their sounds.  The word count is between 200 - 1000 words with just a few lines per page and a simple plot. The color illustrations on every page are still the main focus for telling of the story. Pages vary as per content--usually less than 32 pages.

Picture books/Easy readers:  Ages 5 -7 years.  Early picture book are books written for children just starting to read on their own. These books have between 500- 1500 simple words (1000 words being the average) and have a stronger focus on an entertaining story through the story's action and dialogue. Color illustrations are still on every page or every other page. These books are usually 32 pages.

Early chapter books:  Age 6 - 9 or 7 - 10 years. The story is divided into chapter of 2 - 3 pages per chapter.  The plotting and characters become more complex than a picture book, but not too much that the child loses interest.  Theme and style of writing grab the child's attention. Most chapter books for this age group still include some illustrations, usually black and white, but not on every page. The word count can be up to 10,000 words and up to 65 pages.

Middle grade chapter books: Written for children 8 - 12 years of age, the characters and plotting of the story becomes more complex as the topics have a wider range and the writer has more leeway to include some narration and descriptive setting, introduce more characters, and add dramatic effects to the theme and style of writing.  Chapters are 3 -4 pages each with few illustrations or no illustrations. Kid get hooked on character at this stage of reading. Word count can be up to 20,000 words within 65 - 200 pages.

Young adult books: Often referred to as YA books or  juvenille novels, are written for readers 12 and up, 14 and up, and 17 - 18 years.Topics and language vary greatly. Most YA books have an adolescent protagonist where the focus is on plotting, character and setting, while theme and style often take second place. Plotting can have subplots with several major characters, although, one character should still emerge as the focus of the story. Harry Potter books are consider YA novels.

Whatever age group your intended audience, the main character of your story should be a little older than the intended audience.

Visit my author's website to learn more about my dragon books for children:

copyright, Diane Mae Robinson, 2014


  1. What is your source? I would argue that picture books should not go past 1000 words, and average more around 400 to 500 words. Maybe WC has increased to accommodate the hard to fight authors that don't respect traditional publishing values. The ones that uh, came along since Amazon. I've got one right now with close to 4000 words - "what's wrong with that?" How do you answer that? Or the ones with 60 ages when picture books are 32 books with an occasional 44. It's so frustrating that I have been seriously considering not accepting anything but traditionally published books. Your post is very good. Maybe it will help some understand you can't just do what you because you don't know any better. We need new gatekeeper system.

    1. Dear Sue,

      You are so right. Writers need to follow traditionally accepted formats and word count when considering self publishing a book. If the writers of these extensively long picture books would look up different traditional publishing guidelines, they would understand that a 3000 word picture book just would not get published in a traditional market. Why? Because the publishing industry has standards and they make no exceptions, period. My advice to self published authors would be to do some research before self publishing any book, see what is acceptable in the market, and follow those rules.

      As for the source of my information in this article, it is mostly from all my research in the Writer's Guide, and researching publisher's guidelines. The above word counts vary widely and depending on the publisher. For instance, a picture book for a five-year-old may contain 500 words and a picture story book can be up to 1500 words for a child seven years old. There are sub-categories in all the above categories that need to be taken into consideration.

  2. Frustrated Reviewer13 March 2014 at 13:05

    I wrote a comment earlier but my computer died right before it sent, so let's try one more time. I had asked who your sources were for this post.

    I wondered because most PB I get from traditional publishers are around 400 to maybe 500 words. Though I have received many over the 1000 word count from indie authors. Even one at 3000 and something and one right now at 4000. I hope this post is seen by many a new writer. I don't understand why many think they can write as long as they want--covering up the illustrations and it is wrong to tell them it is not good. I even had one that wants to rewrite the rules about commas (this person hardly used any).

    There is only one entity to blame for this: Amazon. We need gatekeepers back to hold back the surge of "I-Can-Toos." Sign me "Frustrated Reviewer"

    1. Yes, we need gatekeepers to rule out and toss out self published books that don't follow traditional guidelines and/or are badly written. Any volunteers?

      Unfortunately, publishing whatever the heck you want to publish is a sign (not a good sign) of our times.

    2. Frustrated Reviewer, I am glad I am not the only one wondering the source for these guidelines. I wondered thinking maybe I could do a post or steal this one. I understand the frustrations with trying to review a 3000 WC picture book. I also understand how when you do mention the "traditionally proper" word count many selfies get upset. Leaving out commas or just making up new rues goes too far, much too far. Now that selfie was arrogant.
      I think that is how I will differentiate between writers who know their stuff but chose to self publish (self-published author) and those that fall into the "hell, I can write a book, how hard is it really" category (the selfies). LIke the self taken phone pictures versus using a regular camera or a professional photo.

    3. Hi Sue,

      Yes you can certainly use this post. II like your definitions: self published vs. selfies. There is an enormous difference between writers who know, understand, and use the proper guidelines of writing and those that just ignore them and publish anyway. I am in totally agreement with Frustrated Reviewer (above); we need gatekeepers.