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ATOS complexity in rhyming children's books.

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I did a little experiment with my finished MS, and plugged it into the ATOS testing tool on renaissance.com

Now, I know that ATOS is not designed for dealing with poetry, prose and other forms of writing without a "standard" sentence structure, but I note that ATOS grades are still listed for rhyming books on the  Bookfinder.

The first time I put my manuscript into the tool, it came out with a score of 5.8. Word length and Vocab levels were much lower than that score (4.2 and 3.2 respectively), but the sentence length metric was very high at 12.3, pulling the total up dramatically.

I tend to write in 4 line verses with pairs of rhyming words AABB, and usually, I'll include a comma at the end of the first and third lines, and a full-stop (period) after the second and fourth. This means that most of the sentences are two lines (16 syllables) long.

To see what difference it made, I replaced all the commas at the end of lines with full-stops and put the text back through the ATOS analyser.  This reduced the sentence length metric to 6.6 and brought down the ATOS score by two and a half years to 3.2.

Now I did this without checking to make sure that a full-stop was actually appropriate. I'm sure there are places where it wasn't, but is this something that I should consider doing? How important actually is an ATOS level?
#1 - November 14, 2017, 02:17 PM
« Last Edit: November 14, 2017, 02:19 PM by 01i »
Oliver Piotrowski

Rhyming Chapter Book - Critique Request
http://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?topic=85240.0

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Oli, I wouldn't worry about this at all unless you are targeting an educational publisher, and even then, not, unless they specifically asked you to lower or raise the level. It's hard enough writing an entire story in rhyme without worrying about reading level.
#2 - November 14, 2017, 05:25 PM
TEN EASTER EGGS (Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 40 books and 60 magazine pieces

ATOS level aside, seeing such a large difference just by changing commas to full-stops has got me thinking about the length of sentences. I'd previously thought it would be my word choice that would raise complexity, rather than grammatical choices.

Is it generally a good idea to change a long sentence into two shorter sentences where possible? Also, are there any good resources that provide insight into sentence length in Children's books.
#3 - November 14, 2017, 05:38 PM
Oliver Piotrowski

Rhyming Chapter Book - Critique Request
http://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?topic=85240.0

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Yes, they're called published books.  There aren't rules.  There's only what works and what doesn't work.

Read, read, read, read. You'll get a handle on it. 

And what Vijaya said about ATOS.  Not a factor.
#4 - November 14, 2017, 05:43 PM
BUSY-EYED DAY (Beach Lane Books, 2018)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
VAMPIRINA AT THE BEACH (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

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Yes, sentence length really makes a difference. And for beginning readers, two short sentences are preferable to a long one. However, if one is a dependent clause you really need that comma and I can assure you that it isn't more difficult for the child to read, esp. since the line is broken in the poem at the comma. I once debated this with a copyeditor who removed a comma and put a period in, changing the meaning of the sentence so that it was no longer accurate (scientifically speaking).

Word choice makes a difference too, but lots of times kids can figure out the meaning by context. Also, if it's repeated, it's not as difficult the second or third time they run into it. To get a more accurate level, I'll change a scientific term to CAT, and see what the score is. If it's within the range, I don't worry, because the scientific term will be defined either in the glossary or the main text the first time the child encounters it.

I've written a lot of supplementary science material, so this comes up a lot.
#5 - November 14, 2017, 05:51 PM
TEN EASTER EGGS (Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 40 books and 60 magazine pieces

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ps: I've not heard "full-stop" since my school days in India. You must be a Brit :grin3
#6 - November 14, 2017, 05:53 PM
TEN EASTER EGGS (Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 40 books and 60 magazine pieces

ps: I've not heard "full-stop" since my school days in India. You must be a Brit :grin3

Indeed I am :) I can't quite bring myself to call it a period. Other than in brackets the first time I used the word (opening post) like a acronym.
#7 - November 14, 2017, 06:21 PM
Oliver Piotrowski

Rhyming Chapter Book - Critique Request
http://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?topic=85240.0

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It's far more important to be grammatically correct than to have a certain ATOS level unless you are writing a leveled book. Remember that many picture books are read to the child. The reader will explain where needed.
#8 - November 14, 2017, 08:44 PM

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