The TSE Guide to Age Ranges & Content Styles

What kind of book to write for who...

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One of the most frustrating things you’ll find when trying to figure out the children’s book market is the lack of solid and cohesive information about what the age ranges for each book are and what stories (or book type) are appropriate for what age.

 

Luckily, we’ve put together a solid and consistent framework you can follow, listing book types, age ranges and word counts. These may be variable via country, book store, publisher, etc, however, these serve as a good baseline for general international publishing and they match up with our specific services listed in The Build-a-Book Portal where you can order your children's ghostwriting.

Scroll down to browse through the varying book styles. Alternatively, use the quick links provided below to get straight to what you're looking for:

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  PICTURE BOOKS  

Ages: 0-5, Up to 250 Words

Ages: 3-8, Up to 1,000 Words

  CHAPTER BOOKS  

Ages: 7-9, Approx 5k -15k Words

Ages: 8-12, Approx 20k -40k Words

Ages: 12-16, Approx 40k -90k Words

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Picture Books:

Board Books, Storybooks & Easy Readers

Picture Book One: Up to 250 words

  Board Books  

  Also known as: Baby Books, Toddler Books  

AGE RANGE: 0-5    WORD COUNT: Up to 250 words
PAGES (incl. cover): APPROX 20 pages (roughly 16-18 pages of story)

NOTE: If publishing via Amazon KDP, keep in mind that Amazon’s minimum page count requirement is 24 pages.  

Board Books – or Baby Books, as they’re also known – are often the first book a child will ever own. These are full of short sentences with short words and a limited word count alongside simplistic, easy to understand illustrations. These books explore very simple topics such as shapes, colours, body parts, animals, etc, and if there is a plot, it is very simple and easy to follow. Some of these books have as few as 50 words in, whereas some have up to 250 words.
 

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Picture Book Two: Up to 1,000 words

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Storybooks / Classic Picture Books generally target children anywhere between 3-8 years old. Generally, the content of these books is all about exploring emotions and empathy, emotional intelligence, acceptance, social connections and life lessons. The pictures and the words work together to tell a story that is equally balanced, both visually and verbally.

These books are generally read to children by an adult, or, as an assisted read by parents, so the language can be expressive and evocative but not too complex. Generally, these stories are told in third-person and in either present or past tense.

Out in the market, in this age bracket, you will find the wildest deviations in targeting: 3-5, 4-6, 5-7,3-8, 4-8, etc. This is partially to do with reading level but also, partially do with the interest level of the topic or theme being explored.

 E.g. A storybook titled ‘Bobo and the Baby Chefs’ about babies opening and running a kitchen would be more appealing to an audience of 3-5 year olds than it might be to an audience of 7 and 8 year olds.

In general, when picking your age content here, it’s good to consider the following:

Some stories are timeless and magical and have a wider interest level and will work broadly for ages 3-8; some stories are targeted more towards the 3-5 or the 5-8 age bracket in terms of interest (see table for reference).

Wider Targeting (Ages 3-8)

If the story is a Universal concept (ages 3-8), anywhere from 300 to 1,000 words will work.

Younger Targeting
(Ages 3-5)

If the story is more targeted towards 3-5 year olds, keeping the story simpler and around 500 words is the sweet spot.

Older Targeting
(Ages 5-8)

If the story or concept is higher level, intricate or targeted towards 5-8 year olds, around 800-1,000 words is best.

  Storybooks  

  Also known as: Classic Picture Books 

AGE RANGE: 3-8    WORD COUNT: Up to 1,000 words
PAGES (incl. cover): APPROX 32 pages (roughly 26 pages of story)

 

 

Easy Readers / Early Reader books are essentially longer picture books that are specifically designed for children who are just learning to read by themselves. One key difference between standard Storybooks and Easy Readers is that in Storybooks, the illustrations are just as important as the words in telling the story; in an Easy Reader, the illustrations just stand as visual support to the text.

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The content of these books is often very relatable to children in this age range with a child – or younger animal or creature – in the leading role. The key is to get the child interested in independent reading so relatability and keeping it interesting and relevant to the child is absolutely paramount in these books. To do this, these stories are told with lots of action, dialogue and a quick moving story. The plot line itself is usually not too complicated and is supported by short sentences with easy wording.

Picture Book Three: Up to 2,000 words

  Easy Readers  

 Also known as: Early Readers, Beginner Readers, Emerging Readers or Longer Picture Books

AGE RANGE: 5-9    WORD COUNT: Up to 2,000 words*
PAGES (incl. cover): APPROX 42 - 64 pages

 

NOTE: 2,000 words gives a less text, more illustration Easy Reader. For text heavy Easy Readers with a picture or two per chapter, these would come in at around 5,000 words. To purchase this from us, please select a 5k word Shorter Chapter Book.

 
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Chapter Books

Shorter, Traditional & Teen/Young Adult

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Shorter Chapter Books / First Chapter Books are a child’s first foray into the world of longer, non-illustration-focused reading. There are, indeed, often images dotted throughout the book, however, as these books are now the format of a standard reading book, these are now just dotted between the pages and are just black and white. For these kinds of books, there can be anywhere between 15 to 40 images throughout. Depending on word count, there are generally between 5 and 15 chapters, with 10 chapters being a good average.

Chapter Book One: 5k to 15k words

  Shorter Chapter Books  

  Also known as: First Chapter Books

AGE RANGE: 7-9    WORD COUNT: 5,000 to 15,000 words (APPROX)

 

NOTE: Longer Easy Readers are around 5,000 words and would also fall under this category.

The content itself is always relevant to the age-range of the child and often features a child aged around 9 years old in the lead. More often than not, these stories integrate fantastical or ridiculous elements (such as a Unicorn School, a secret magical family member or a machine that is powered by flatulence) and tell the story of how the lead character navigates the situation or fictional world and learns and grows. In these books, it is very important that the child has to solve the issues themselves. The story is always very simple, clear and quite linear.

A key element of interest in Shorter Chapter Books is combining a larger-than-life or fantastical situation, world or characters, with a protagonist that is very grounded and is making real-world and relatable choices to navigate the ridiculous levels of chaos, magic or silliness around them.

The language used in these books is more advanced than in any other level of book prior to this, however, it is still not super-duper tricky language. These books are still trying to instil a love of reading into children, so, the trickiest words in these kinds of books are words like obviously, doughnuts and familiar.

 

Traditional Chapter Books– Traditional Chapter Books allow for much more exploration into characters, and themes with a greater  allowance for the truth of what is happening in each situation. As a general rule, these books will follow the typical three-act structure for a story:

  • Act I - Setup: Exposition, Inciting Incident, Plot Point One.

  • Act II - Confrontation: Rising Action, Midpoint, Plot Point Two.

  • Act III - Resolution: Pre Climax, Climax, Denouement.

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Chapter Book Two: 20k to 40k words

Traditional Chapter Books  

  Also known as: Middle-Grade Fiction, Full Chapter Books

AGE RANGE: 8-12    WORD COUNT: 20,000 to 40,000 words (APPROX)

 

In books prior to this level, any negatives or not-so-nice parts of the story will have been heavily sugar-coated and not explored too thoroughly. In these books, the stakes of the story can be much higher with elements of danger, drama, peril or real-life told more truthfully (in an age-appropriate way, of course!). The idea is that by this stage, they have learnt to love reading; now is the time to start telling them stronger stories!

Even though truths are explored more, these books are still a lot of fun and are often very humorous! For example, Gangsta Granny by David Walliams explores a young boy’s relationship with his Granny who, as it transpires, is secretly a master thief. Spoiler alert: As well as being incredibly silly and having very funny scenes, Granny dies at the end of the book.

The main characters are often aged between 11 and 13 and are often flawed and are surrounded by other people with flaws, too.

Often, these books will still have images placed here and there, but they are few and far between. In a 30-40,000-word book over almost 300 pages, you might find around 20-30 images dotted throughout. Some books of this age-range don’t have images at all, though, many do.

Overall, child-friendly and ridiculous ideas (such as in Gangsta Granny) are still explored in this level, just with more depth and vigour, with more true-to-life outcomes.

Regarding language and wording, in these books, the child will be introduced to words that they may not have come across before such as emblazoned, ominously or mantelpiece, however, these words do not occur with too much frequency, but rather intermittently to get them used to reading and interpreting language they may not have had to read before.