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Easy Readers 101

What is an Easy Reader?


    • For readers kindergarten through second or third grade.


    • Designed to be read by children just learning to read on their own.


    • Books can be 32-64 pages long, fiction or nonfiction, with texts ranging from about 50 words up to 2000 words.


    • Books are “leveled”, with the simplest, shortest stories being Level 1, getting longer and more complex as the levels increase. Higher levels may have short chapters. Each publisher has its own leveling system.


    • Characters can be children, animals, fantasy creatures or adults, as long as they think and act like children the age of the reader.


    • Stories are told through action and dialogue. Very little description. Illustrations on every page (or nearly every page) help convey the meaning of the text.


    • Sentences are short and grammatically simple. Lower levels focus on one-syllable words; as the levels increase the words can get slightly more complex and sentences longer.


    • Humor is very important.


    Are Easy Readers Right for You?


      • Can you tell an interesting story with a beginning, middle and end in simple sentences?


      • Do you understand the sense of humor of a child 5-8 years old?


      • Can you develop a plot with action and dialogue, and leave the description to the pictures?


Laura Backes

Laura is the founder and publisher of Children's Book Insider, and co-founder of Her work has appeared in Writer's Digest and The Writer magazines, as well as on numerous writing blogs. She's the technical editor of "Writing Children's Books for Dummies", and her book "Best Books for Kids Who (Think They) Hate to Read" is published by Random House. Through webinars, workshops, and online courses, Laura has taught thousands of children's book writers how to improve their craft .

13 Responses to “Easy Readers 101”

  1. Mona Pease

    Thanks. This is a great checklist for anyone wanting to try writing easy readers.
    I have a question. Do you know of a program or where I go to find a similar Flesch Kincaid word list to use with my Mac?
    Thanks and thanks again!

  2. Gabriele Gimenez

    Thank you for helping me in my search to find the age-group I am most comfortable writing for.

  3. Kim White

    This is the preferred age group that I enjoy writing for but I wonder, if publishers do not accept these stories from unpublished writers and only from from the big named authors, how do we break into the market?

  4. Paige Lohr

    I have a question, are you planing on another workshop for writing for children? I attended the one you had in North Carolina several years ago. I would love to go to another one. Thank you, P

  5. maria richardson

    Hi Laura. My 10 year old has written a draft of what she hopes will be a published one day as a children’s book for easy reader groups. However, trying to research of how I can make this happen has been challenging because there is so much in getting started on a manuscript (proper formatting, writing styles etc.) that coincide with a publisher’s guidelines. Please advise as what is the best approach to book publishing 101? Thanks.

  6. Laura Backes

    Hi Maria:

    As for formatting, always double-space, leave about 1 to 1.25 inch margin all around, add a header on each page with the author’s name/title on the left and page number on the right. The first page should start about 1/3 of the way down with the title across the top (also add name, address, phone and email to the header on the upper left of the first page). Each chapter should start on a new page, with the chapter title and beginning text of the chapter about 1/3 ov the way down the page. If you’re writing a picture book (no chapters), double-space as above, but don’t indicate where page breaks would go in the finished book. So a picture book text might be 2-4 manuscript pages, even though the finished book is 32 pages long. Don’t add any notes to the illustrator unless they’re absolutely necessary (for example, if something has to happen in the pictures that’s not clear from the text, but it’s important to the understanding of the story).

    Best of luck to your daughter. I’m impressed that she’s writing at such a young age!


  7. Laura Backes

    Thanks Paige. We are currently focusing on online workshops, such as the Picture Book Summit we co-hosted on October 3 of 2015 ( If we do a live event in the future, we’ll be sure to announce it in CBI!


  8. Laura Backes

    Dear Kim:

    It’s always possible for a great story to get published, even from a new author. The key is writing something fresh and different. Easy readers are really no different from any other genre in that respect. I suggest starting with smaller publishers, as the big publishers tend to rely more on authors with a following. But it’s doable, so I hope you keep trying!


  9. jennie wittenbach

    Thanks for all your help these last 12 years! I am renewing my subscription as of today. Because of all your suggestions and articles, I have had one mid-grade historical fiction book published and have 3 easy readers in the works for a 2019 catalog! I couldn’t have done it without CBI!

  10. Phyllis Rowan

    Hooray! I start work today on Irish, cultural heritage books for ages 3-7: picture-books for the youngest; a stepped ability series of readers for ages 4-7. I am wondering how best to research this genre and its current marketability. I would welcome your comments, however brief. With thanks and jpyful wishes

  11. Laura Backes

    Phyllis, as always, reading a lot of books for the age groups you’re writing for is the best research. I’m assuming your Irish cultural heritage books are nonfiction. I suggest going to the library and looking at nonfiction picture books on other cultures to see how they are structured. There are different ways of writing nonfiction: expository (explaining the topic in a very straightforward manner), or narrative nonfiction (structured more like a story with a narrower focus, such as following a child through a traditional holiday celebration or a biography about a specific accomplishment or period of time in a person’s life). Fiction picture books are an art form that entails knowing how to convey a story in active scenes and leaving the descriptive details to the illustrator. While picture books are designed to be read out loud to a child by an adult (and so can have more complex vocabulary and sentence structure), leveled readers are written in simpler language and sentences than picture books because they’re meant to be read by the children themselves. But leveled readers (or easy readers, as they’re usually called), still must have engaging storylines and fast-paced action and dialogue. So start by reading a lot of each type of book and note how the authors structured the story or information, how characters are introduced and developed, the pacing of each spread, how much dialogue appears on each page, how the author raises the tension/surprise/intrigue so the reader will turn the page to see what happens next, how the plot is resolved. You’re really being a detective and taking apart published books to see how they’re constructed.

    On our site, you’ll see free trial versions of our Picture Book Blueprint and our Easy Reader Upgrade, which will walk you through the process of writing picture books and easy readers. You can see those here: . We also have several Writing Solutions Webinars that may be of interest, including some on writing nonfiction. You can see all those here: .

    Best of luck with your projects!


  12. McKenzie Rabenn

    Hi Laura,
    I am not a writer but instead, work for a small startup publishing company that is producing leveled texts. I am wondering what you would consider a fair rate of pay to be for this type of job? I believe this type of writing is more difficult than non-leveled children’s books given that there are more constraints. Also, would you expect the writers to get paid per word, per job, or per hour? Thank you in advance.

  13. Laura Backes

    Hi McKenzie,

    I agree that writing leveled texts is more difficult than non-leveled texts. I assume you will be providing authors with very detailed guidelines for each level. If this is a work-for-hire arrangement with the authors, then you’d pay a flat fee for the entire project. The fee may be higher for longer books at more advanced levels. As for the exact amount of the fee, so much depends on that (and on the publisher you’re working for). It could range anywhere from several hundred dollars per book (for an early level that might have 50-250 words) to a few thousand. I suggest you join the KidLit411 Facebook group and post your question there about fees. There are many experienced authors in the group who will give you advice based on what they’ve earned for their books.

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