Confessions of a Children’s Book Author … Research

Contribution by Darlo Gemeinhardt, author of the soon-to-be released middle grade K9 Crossroads series

Research is a key component of being a writer, even a writer of children’s books. While traditionally, historical novels may require more research than contemporary novels, I did quite a bit of research for the novels in my K9 CROSSROADS series. Whether you’re researching drones and broadcasting or locations like Seattle and New York, research can take quite a few hours and days in order to obtain the needed information.

Fortunately for me I love doing research.

While I lean toward sites that emphasize middle grade topics, I wanted to share some important and helpful research sites that you can use for writing any children’s book.

Along with the more well-known sites like National Geographic, Fun Brain, or even Pinterest, here are a few other helpful websites:

EdTechTeacher – This site uses stories and illustrations to understand fiction and non-fiction. They emphasize teaching subjects using technology. They also feature Lesson Plans, Maps, Games, Museums Online, and a huge History Database.

PBS – This site offers educational programs in Math, Science, English Language Arts, and Social Studies.

KidLit411 – This site is not just for children’s writers, but can apply to all genres. Personally, I love their Middle Grade column called The Writer’s Dig by Brian A. Klems.

Smithsonian  – Check out the Smithsonian. This site lures you in with all its fascinating information. Before you realize it, you can spend hours reading through the exhaustive topics and watching all the included videos.

Writer’s Digest This site has a myriad of columns and information, and there is a list of all the best writing books published by Writer’s Digest as well.

Inky Girl – This site covers reading, writing, and illustration for children’s books. There are activity sheets, and templates for young writers and illustrators. Much of this could be used in the classroom or when speaking to young groups.

Library of Congress – The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscriptsin its collections. The Library is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.

Teaching American History – A wonderful site for everything history, including teaching plans, and videos.

Google Maps – Besides the obvious name of streets and highways, maps can give you the location of restaurants, hotels, gas stations, schools, hospitals, etc.

BBC This is an awesome site especially for everything history related.

The World Factbook – The CIA hosts this reference website that provides “information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities.

This month in our Confessions of a Children's Book Author blog post, we are focusing on sharing helpful research sources. What sites or books would you add to the list? Click To Tweet

Certainly, the internet has made it much easier to do research as a writer, however, it doesn’t hurt to visit your local library and check out a few books in order to thorough and to double-check whatever topic, age group, or location you may be needing information about. Or, do research how to best write the children’s book you’re working on. Here are a few books I’d like to recommend for writers of elementary, middle grade or young adult books:

The World Almanac and Book of Facts by Sarah Janssen and published by World Almanac. This is “America’s top-selling reference book of all time, with more than 82 million copies sold” according to their website and is a compilation of a variety of information from entertainment news to reference materials.

The Everything Guide to Writing Children’s Books, 2nd edition, by Luke Wallin and Eva Sage Gordon and published by Adams Media. Recommended by our publisher, this is a terrific resource to help children’s writers go from a basic concept to a ready-to-submit manuscript.

Middle School The Inside Story by Cynthia Tobias and Sue Acuna published by Focus on the Family.  The sub-title or log-line to this story is WHAT KIDS TELL US, BUT DON’T TELL YOU. I wish I’d had this book when my son was a middle grader.

Moms’ Ultimate Guide to the Tween Girl World  by Nancy Rue and published by Zondervan. 

Writers-Guide-Character-Traitssecond edition, by Linda N. Edelstein, PH.D. and published by Writer’s Digest. This book covers psychological disorders, criminal types, physical disorders, physical appearances, body language, etc.

Once I start a story, I make a notebook with all this information, including research articles and newspaper clippings, character names and relationships relevant to the novel. I add to it as needed. Often I scan the items into my computer where I can create a digital file.

Of course, the best things you can do to research is to spend time with children of the appropriate age of your characters. Talk to them and listen to them. They are your ultimate source.

And, READ. Read in your age group, your genre, your topic or theme. See how others write. Get a feel for what’s in the marketplace already. Check out the many different styles and viewpoints that your fellow authors are utilizing. Read.