This article says, "Advocates of high interest/low vocabulary books argue that getting reluctant or struggling readers to practice reading is essential ... In creating such materials careful attention must be paid to constructing a work that will not only keep the readers' interests (and not appear too babyish) ... [The] essential characteristics of a good high interest/low vocabulary book:
- Compelling storyline and credible characters
- Topics and issues with which readers can make personal or emotional connections
- Supportive formatting that includes illustrations and appropriate text placement on the page
- Careful introduction and reinforcement of difficult vocabulary and concepts
- Straightforward plot development
- Simple sentence structures"
Do I write this way on purpose for kids? I don't think so. My last adult book came in at a 5.8 grade level. It's probably the influence of my day job, where I often try to translate the CEO's memos into something everyone from the housekeeper to the neurosurgeon would understand. The CEO's first drafts always come in at 12th grade level [Full disclosure: and they would come in at post-grad level if the program measured that high.] With luck, I can get them down to 8th without completely rewriting them.
How does your own writing compute? If you use Microsoft Word, you can go under "Tools" chose "Spelling and grammar" and then under options check the readability index box. To bring the number down, use shorter words and shorter sentences. The formula doesn't think about how difficult the words are, just how many syallables they have. "He smelled a fug. Could it get any worse than this?" and "He felt a tug. Could it get any worse than this?" have the exact same score, although many people don't know the word "fug." [Full disclosure: a wonderful word, IMHO.]
For many books, Amazon has a wonderful feature under "Inside this book" called "text stats." You can see how many words a book has, the grade reading level, all kinds of things, plus comparisions to other types of books. Wondering how many words are inside a book you see as a role model, or what the reading level is? Now you can compare.