If you’re planning to write for children, especially early readers, you need to be familiar with sight words. Sight words are a group of several hundred words that make up the majority of words used in children’s literature. New readers need to be able to recognize sight words by sight because many of them cannot be deciphered using phonics. Pretty confusing for a young kid but also essential if they want to be successful readers. Teachers and editors know these sight words – but, aspiring children’s writer – do you?
There are tons of resources online for writers who want to gain familiarity with sight words. I’m pretty lucky because I have a first grader! We are working through five books this year, each with five lists of words that my young reader will master before the end of the school year. Can I brag a little and mention he’s already completed the first two books and is ahead of schedule?
Helping him master sight words includes very common techniques that we use to learn new things every day: repetition, frequent exposure, and in his case, a relaxed approach to the process of learning the words.
Writing With Sight Words
Research shows that children learn these sight words best when working in small groups with adults, so I’m also a volunteer in the classroom helping other children master their sight words. I flip over index cards and gauge how fluently the children read the words.
There’s so much more to writing for children than just picking a high interest topic like dinosaurs or princess fairies. Word choice can make a story just the right level of challenging for a young reader and very useful to a teacher.
When I’m working on a children’s story that I plan to submit to a magazine, agent or publishing house, I return to these lists. I look for places where I can substitute adult words for a sight words. Lists of sight words are available online.