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Readability calculators

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Hello,
Does anyone know the importance of readability scores when it comes to picture book manuscripts and if agents/publishers frequently use them when deciding on whether they want to pursue a manuscript or not. I am currently struggling with keeping my target audience at 3-7 years old based on online readability scores. I have edited and condensed and simplified over and over but I can't seem to get below 1st-3rd grade levels of reading. Is this acceptable for picture books? Or do I need to simplify even more so that it reads for preschool age too? Thank you for your feedback,
Allison
#1 - June 08, 2021, 09:32 AM

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Hi Allison.

The score is simply a calculation on the combination of sentence lengths and syllables (the math is here: https://www.semrush.com/kb/830-how-is-readability-score-calculated) so just changing the MC from Amelia to Bob can make a difference of a couple grades.

But PBs are often read by parents. Are you writing a PB or an early reader?

Perhaps you should think of comparable stories and look up their reading level. It may surprise you. Green Eggs and Ham is grade 1.5, but The Lorax is grade 3.1
#2 - June 08, 2021, 12:58 PM

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I think a 1st to 2nd grade reading level is fine for PBs. I do get concerned when I critique stories and they rate at a 5th - 7th grade level, which is likely due to long sentences. But since parents typically read PBs to their children I don't think you need to stress too much about the reading level. One or two big words will raise it higher, but since they're read with parents, pushing higher language occassionally is a good thing! :-)
#3 - June 08, 2021, 01:16 PM
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I wouldn't worry about readability for PB--they are meant to be read aloud by a parent or teacher. Of course, children also read to themselves but this is really the perfect place to expose a child to the richness and beauty of language.

I also write EZs and CBs and I write the story first, then revise with vocabulary, sentence length, to get it in the proper reading range.
#4 - June 08, 2021, 02:22 PM
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You have great answers above. There is one other concern. If your main character is a second grader and the story is first person (or a close third person)), a level too far above second grade may concern an editor or agent. People often speak above what they could read, but not always that far above. So make sure the language is true to the narrative voice. There are many kids who use big words and that is fine, but it has to be consistent and fit your work.
#5 - June 08, 2021, 07:00 PM
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Thank you for your help!

You have great answers above. There is one other concern. If your main character is a second grader and the story is first person (or a close third person)), a level too far above second grade may concern an editor or agent. People often speak above what they could read, but not always that far above. So make sure the language is true to the narrative voice. There are many kids who use big words and that is fine, but it has to be consistent and fit your work.

#6 - June 09, 2021, 10:35 AM

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Thank you for your help!

I wouldn't worry about readability for PB--they are meant to be read aloud by a parent or teacher. Of course, children also read to themselves but this is really the perfect place to expose a child to the richness and beauty of language.

I also write EZs and CBs and I write the story first, then revise with vocabulary, sentence length, to get it in the proper reading range.

#7 - June 09, 2021, 10:35 AM

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Thank you for your help!

I think a 1st to 2nd grade reading level is fine for PBs. I do get concerned when I critique stories and they rate at a 5th - 7th grade level, which is likely due to long sentences. But since parents typically read PBs to their children I don't think you need to stress too much about the reading level. One or two big words will raise it higher, but since they're read with parents, pushing higher language occassionally is a good thing! :-)

#8 - June 09, 2021, 10:36 AM

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Thank you for your help!

Hi Allison.

The score is simply a calculation on the combination of sentence lengths and syllables (the math is here: https://www.semrush.com/kb/830-how-is-readability-score-calculated) so just changing the MC from Amelia to Bob can make a difference of a couple grades.

But PBs are often read by parents. Are you writing a PB or an early reader?

Perhaps you should think of comparable stories and look up their reading level. It may surprise you. Green Eggs and Ham is grade 1.5, but The Lorax is grade 3.1

#9 - June 09, 2021, 10:36 AM

I think the title of the genre defines it: children that age are more (from my experience) into rhythm & repetition. I've always written in narrative & if a child doesn't know the meaning of a word, they'll ask: they are inquisitive little beasts.
#10 - June 11, 2021, 07:42 AM

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Thanks!

I think the title of the genre defines it: children that age are more (from my experience) into rhythm & repetition. I've always written in narrative & if a child doesn't know the meaning of a word, they'll ask: they are inquisitive little beasts.

#11 - June 11, 2021, 11:31 AM

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