Friday, September 28, 2012

Writing Software for Children

Book review of Children's Writer's Word Book - Everything you need to ensure your writing speaks to your young audience by Alijandra Mogilner (published 1992 and 2006 by Writers Digest Books).

"Children's Writer's Word Book" was written for authors of books and stories for children aged five through twelve (in US terms, for kids in grades K-6). All of the principles in the book, however, apply to software developers who are marketing applications for youngsters.

Software applications to teach children to spell

There is a robust market for spelling software, vocabulary drill programs, and vocabulary applications for younger kids. It's a mistake, however, to assume that you can determine which words are appropriate for these kids. In reality, there are education professionals who spend their entire careers determining which words children should learn in each school grade, and how best to weave this vocabulary into the education curriculum.

"Children's Writer's Word Book" will strengthen educational software marketing because it gives developers the information that they need to use words that are age-appropriate for the children they're targeting. Software developers need this information, whether creating applications for the classroom, for parents who want to work on vocabulary and spelling with their kids, for youngsters who will use the software to work independently, or for homeschoolers.

"Children's Writer's Word Book" can help microISVs

Most of this book is made up of

  • An alphabetical list of words for children in grades K-6, with grade levels specified for each word;
  • Seven graded word lists for K-6 kids; and
  • An extensive thesaurus that lets you find words with the same meaning that are appropriate for kids in each grade level.
Thesaurus and word lists

The thesaurus is fascinating. It tells us that the word "claim" would be understood by most second-graders. Synonyms such as the verb "state" or the noun "deed" are okay for youngsters in the first grade. Third graders should be able to understand "title". Sixth graders would know the nouns "allegation" and "assertion" as well as the verb "assert".

For each of the seven Graded Word List chapters, the book also discusses the social changes, classroom issues, specific vocabulary development concerns, and issues of interest to book publishers - and software developers - who target that age group. In addition to the actual word lists, each chapter also includes writing samples.

Without a reference work like "Children's Writer's Word Book," a software developer could create an application that might convince parents that it's appropriate for their kids. But if you want professional educators to buy your software for classroom use, you'll need a book like this to keep you on track.

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