Publishing children’s writing
To publish something means to place it before the public, to
make a written work generally known, or to spread around an idea.
Adults typically share their work in one of two ways: privately
or through a commercial publisher. Both are viable, valuable
ways to get the word out—in cookbooks, biographies, self-help
guides, and novels.
Preschool and school-age children can publish their work too—and you are
the key. The tools are simple and the rewards bountiful.
Enter the publishing world with a simple examination of commercially produced
books. Help children recognize that all published materials include some basic
information: a title, the name of the author, the name of the illustrator, a
simple copyright symbol ©, and the publication date. The copyright symbol
identifies the work as the property of a particular individual—not to be
copied or shared without the owner’s permission.
Examine how publications are put together: hardbound books, paperbacks, brochures,
maps, and newspapers. Some are produced on thin, cream-colored paper (newsprint),
with black ink, and folded. Others are published on heavy paper with full-colored
photographs and illustrations. Common bindings include saddle stitching (staples
through the crease in folded paper), stab stitching (staples along a folded edge),
side sewing (cord or thread stitches along a folded edge), perfect binding (glued
edges), sewing to show (cord or thread stitches through the crease in folded
paper), and spiral bound with plastic or metal combs.
Computers created a “desktop revolution” that allows anyone with
access to a computer and printer to publish inexpensively. And the Internet invites
contributors to have their work available worldwide—without paper, printing
Private publishing is what we do every time we place our written
work in a form that can be shared: holiday letters, recipes,
and haiku, for example. Child-produced artwork, poetry, and
notes are privately published when you send them home to be
shared with family members.
Create opportunities that promote private publishing. Make sure the author,
illustrator, and copyright date are included on each publication.
Encourage children to design holiday cards and birthday cards. Copy and fold
the cards; and make them available in the classroom post office.
Let children produce invitations to center events: a parent supper, a speaker,
or even a workday. Copy the invitations and post them on doors, bulletin boards,
and children’s cubbies.
Help children develop board games with a drawn playing surface. Collect game
pieces and store the games in plastic zip-top bags.
Equip your writing center to encourage book and story writing. Prompts like “I
wish I could…” or “Shoes are…” can get children
started. Consider creating simple books cut into shapes—a house, a fish,
a football, for example—to encourage creative writing.
Encourage children to share their writing at an author’s tea, with cookies
and fruit juice. Invite children to read their work to visiting family and
friends. Ask the children to include an “About the author” statement.
One child, Julia, proudly composed her biography, which included this information: “Julia
used to have three pets, but now she has one—a cat named Pumpkin. She
has made three books, not counting this one.” Collect all of the children’s
work in a spiral-bound book for the class library.
School-agers can investigate private publishing by creating school newspapers,
newsletters, cookbooks, joke books, and literary magazines. These publications
can be hand-produced or generated with a computer using familiar software like
Microsoft Publisher®. Help the children learn about format, deadlines,
and the economics of production.
Moving beyond in-house publishing
Introduce children to the world of publishing beyond your program.
Collect newspapers from a variety of cities. Help the children
identify common features—headlines, photographs, editorial
columns, comics, and classified listings, for example.
Carefully examine the editorial page and the letters to the editor usually
written by local citizens expressing a personal opinion. Consider helping your
class compose and sign a letter to the local newspaper in response to a recent
story or photograph. You can also encourage parents to help their children
address local issues—like an unsafe crosswalk or poorly equipped city
playground. In the process, you’ll be molding tomorrow’s community
Examine an array of magazines with the group. Again look for common features:
an index to articles, photographs and illustrations, departments or regular
features, and a staff box listing the names of the people who produce the magazine.
Include a selection of literary magazines that publish children’s work:
Stone Soup, Word Dance, Potluck Children’s Literary Magazine, and New
Moon, for example. Examine the stories, poetry, and drawings and challenge
the group to create work to submit for publication. Encourage work on individual
or group projects: introduce a subject and let the writers and artists respond.
The Internet widens opportunities for published children’s work. Because
print publishing is expensive (including staff, paper, printing, and distribution
costs), editors must be selective in who and what is published. The Internet,
on the other hand, is inexpensive to maintain. Many on-line literary magazines
accept all submissions, regardless of writing ability, unless the submission
is inappropriate for children.
All publications—print and Internet—offer guidelines for submitting
children’s work. In general, publishers require:
a cover sheet that includes the child’s name, age, address, and email
a color photocopy of original artwork, and
a statement that the work has not been previously published.
Use the web site information on pages 36-37. Check the specific submission
guidelines for each publication and follow them carefully. Usually editors
discard submissions that are not properly submitted.
Even if a child does not pursue a writing career, there are at
least four good reasons to publish children’s writing.
1. Publishing reinforces a child’s understanding of writing
as a powerful communication tool. Children are more likely to
read and to write when they understand that manuscripts are the
personal voice of an author.
2. Publishing demonstrates that writing has value in the world
beyond home and school. As adults we know that many employment
opportunities depend on good writing skills—from resumes
and job application forms to memos and reports. Publishing offers
children an opportunity to see the value of writing beyond storytelling
3. Publishing offers a powerful validation of self-worth. The
exercise in creativity reinforces determination, risk-taking,
and tenacity—skills necessary for school and employment
success. Gifts of children’s publications offer family
and friends a concrete product to cherish. The publication’s
author recognizes connections—to the work produced, to
the ideas that inspired the work, and to the audience that applauds
4. Publishing demonstrates to children that they, too, are authors—with
stories, insights, and experiences—in the tradition of
Rosemary Wells, Maurice Sendek, and Brian Pinkney.
Support young authors. Early recognition—and publication—could
be the start of a career. After all, several famous writers, including Stephen
King, Langston Hughes, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sylvia Plath
were all first published in their teens.
Caregivers who help children see themselves
as writers may be attending a real book signing someday, where an author scribbles
in their book, Thank you for believing in me and for encouraging
my first writing….
About the author
Theresa M. Sull, Ph.D., is an author, trainer, and early childhood
educator. During her 25-year career, she has taught young children
both with and without special needs, consulted to their families,
taught college students and teachers, published articles, and
coordinated public school, university, and nonprofit programs.
Check out and then share the following print publications that
use children’s work.
Children’s Art Foundation
Santa Cruz, CA 95063
This is a bimonthly print periodical with featured stories and art on the Internet.
Eight- to 13-year-olds from all over the world contribute their stories, poems,
book reviews, and artwork.
Word Dance Magazine
Playful Productions, Inc.
P.O. Box 10804
Wilmington, DE 19850-0804
Word Dance is a quarterly publication with samples on the Internet. The magazine
accepts story, poem, and artwork submissions from children kindergarten through
eighth grade. They also accept group projects.
Potluck Children’s Literary Magazine
P.O. Box 546
Deerfield, IL 60015-0546
This quarterly literary magazine publishes poetry, short stories, book reviews,
and artwork by 8- to 16-year-olds. Sample work is on the Internet site.
P.O. Box 2321
Olympia, WA 98507
Elementary, middle, and high school students can submit their stories, artwork,
and poems to this quarterly magazine. Sample articles are online.
P.O. Box 8813
Waco, TX 76714-8813
Prufrock Press, this quarterly magazine includes games, puzzles,
stories, and opinions, all produced by children ages 8 to 14. See samples
on their web site.
P.O. BOX 3939
Eugene OR 97403-0939 USA
Skipping Stones is an award-winning resource in multicultural education containing
writing by adults and children. Now in its 15th year, Skipping Stones publishes
bimonthly during the school year; sample work is included on the web site.
Children ages 8 to 16 may submit essays, stories, letters to the editor, riddles,
New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams
34 E. Superior St. Ste. 200
Duluth, MN 55802-3003
Especially for girls, New Moon is a bimonthly magazine that publishes letters,
articles, and fiction by 8- to 14-year-old girls. Sample issues are available
on the web site.
The following are Internet sites that publish children’s
Kids on the Net
Kids on the Net features writing by children at home and at school all over
the world. This site is based in Nottingham, England, and accepts submissions
from children ages 6 to 16.
Kids On Line
This web site accepts stories, art, jokes, and verse from children and teens.
KidPub has been collecting children’s stories since 1995. Its database
contains more than 42,000 stories. Read for free. To submit a story, children
must join the Authors Club for 58 cents a month.
Based in Massachusetts, KidAuthors accepts writing submissions from children
ages 6 to 18. This site contains nearly 10,000 poems and stories by young people.
ZuZu began as a print newspaper in New York City but went completely online
in 1995. It accepts online submissions of children’s writing but wants
artwork by snail mail addressed to:
Restless Youth Press
271 East 10th St. #64
New York, NY 10009
Resources for teachers
Bishop, A.; R.H.Yopp; and H.K.Yopp. 2000. Ready
for Reading: A Handbook for Parents of Preschoolers. Needham Heights, Mass.:
Allyn & Bacon.
M. 1995. If
You’re Trying to Teach Kids How to Write…You’ve
Gotta Have This Book! Nashville, Tenn.: Incentive Publications,
Henderson, Kathy. 2001. The
Young Writer’s Guide to Getting
Published. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writers Digest Books.
McCarrier, A.; G.S. Pinnell; and I.C. Fountas. 2000. Interactive
Writing: How Language & Literacy Come Together, K-2. Portsmouth,
Soderman, A.K.; K.M. Gregory; and L.T. O’Neill. 1999. Scaffolding
Emergent Literacy: A Child-Centered Approach for Preschool through
Grade 5. Needham Heights, Mass.: Allyn & Bacon.
Weber, Chris. 2002. Publishing
with Students: A Comprehensive Guide. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann.