In this extract from her article for the Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2022, Rachel Bladon shares her experience of writing children’s educational books and the rewards it offers a writer.
When I became aware of the thriving publishing industry that exists around English Language Teaching (ELT), something I’d got a qualification in and spent a year earning money from in France when fresh out of university, I realized I’d found something that really appealed to me.
Any kind of children’s writing involves putting yourself in a young person’s shoes and viewing the world through their eyes – that is one of the key attractions and challenges of working for this age group. But for writers like me, who are pitching our stories at the educational rather than trade market, there are quite a lot of extra considerations to take on board. It’s not just a question of how old your readers are likely to be, but also what level they are working at, what kind of setting they are learning in, and above all, if you write for international markets, where in the world they are.
As an ELT author and xenophile, one of the things I love most about writing for international markets is what you learn about the different cultures you are tailoring your materials for. Educational writing is also a lot easier to find a way into than the trade market, I think, especially if you’re coming from a teaching background. And while some might see it as the poor cousin of children’s fiction, I’ve found it a field with plenty of scope for creativity, in which you can foster a broad range of writing skills and dip your toe into other sides of the publishing process, like marketing and design. If, like Nelson Mandela, you believe that education is ‘the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’, you might just feel that as an educational writer, you’re doing something that has value too.
Rachel Bladon is an EFL editor and writer, the author of more than 80 graded readers for adults and children, including White Fang (Macmillan Readers 2008), Mulan (Oxford Classic Tales 2017) and The Life and Diaries of Anne Frank (Oxford Bookworms 2018), winners of the ERF (Extensive Reading Foundation) Language Learner Literature Award. She is Series Editor of the Oxford Bookworms Library. For more information see www.linkedin.com/in/rachelbladon.