Many writers began writing when their own children were young and the thrill of snuggling in to share a good book awoke a desire to write a good book. What a wonderful way for your writing self to awaken. But what happens when your kids grow up? How will you still understand your child reader when you have no children in your house?
I stay connected to my target audience by volunteering in the local elementary school. I began by shelving books in the library. It was a natural fit since, like most writers, I love books. During my time checking out books for students, I noticed trends. Who is this Captain Underpants? Why are they fascinated by Ripley’s Believe It or Not books? Look, they still love Corduroy just like I did. No sooner had the Star Wars book gone back on the shelves than someone was checking it out again. They wanted books about fairies and football and yes, even a dog that farts. These books became my study guides. I poured over them like text books.
I watched as the kids reacted to read-aloud stories the librarian shared. Froggy created hysterical laughter. Kids would freeze and stare open mouthed wondering how Wemberly would survive his first day. I watched as they fidgeted through readings from books that failed to really grab them. I studied those books too. My time in the library was fantastic research.
I took it one step further and began substitute teaching in the school. Our school district requires a college education but you do not need any specific teaching degree in order to be a substitute. Getting in the classroom and interacting with the kids helped me to remember how they talk to each other, how they phrase questions and what situations spark what reactions. Every day in the classroom the kids showed me what matters to them, what makes them laugh and what makes them cry.
It’s not enough to connect readers with your writing. To make your writing truly resonate with your audience, you need to make sure that you are connected with your audience. I highly recommend looking for ways to actually interact with your target reader. For me, working in the school library, and substitute teaching have allowed me to keep my dialogue true and my subjects relevant.
Get connected with your audience – your writing will thank you.