Children’s Books: Industry Standards and Resources

Children’s books can be a confusing genre. The notes below explore genre standards among different children’s books and provide resources for further research. These notes were created for UNG Press’s panel, “Children’s Book Publishing From Start To Finish” at the 2019 Dahlonega Literary Festival.

Print Version: Children’s Book Industry Standards (PDF), Children’s Book Sources (PDF), Powerpoint Presentation (Google Slides)

General Info

  • Children’s is a genre that relies on gatekeepers, even for young adult books. Teachers, parents, librarians determine what children read.
  • The Golden Rule: Children want to read stories about other children who are a little bit older than themselves. (Jenny Bowman, children’s book editor, creative writer, and specialist in Children’s Literature)
  • Children’s books are exploratory in nature

Board Books

Age: prereaders
Word Count: 300 words or fewer, may only have 10-20 words max
Page Length: 10 pages or less

  • Designed to be read by an adult to a child
  • Covers early learning concepts such as colors, counting, letters, etc.
  • Light on text, heavy on illustration
  • Made from thick cardstock or cardboard

Example: First 100 Words

Picture Books

Age: 2-7
Word Count: 500 words or fewer, max of 900
Page Length: 32 pages standard, but can be 40, 48, or 56 (at max)

  • Designed to be read by an adult to a child
  • Short on text; rely equally on illustration
  • Introduces universal theme that are approachable
  • Features one main character, one plot or idea, and one storyline
  • Should offer a (simple) question and provide the answer at the end

Example: A Bad Case of Stripes, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Easy Readers/Beginning Readers

Age: 5-8
Word Count: 750 – 1,500 words
Page Length: 32 – 64 pages, depending on the reading level

  • Written for children learning to read on their own
  • Introduction of chapters
  • Short sentences with limited vocabulary
  • Simple, repetitive text with simple sentence structure
  • Slightly more text than in an average picture book
  • 2-5 sentences per page
    Every page or every other page has an illustration
  • Topics and themes are lighthearted and usually explore one idea, subject, or theme

Example: Elephant and Piggie, Henry and Mudge

Chapter Books

Age: 7-10
Word Count: 4,000 – 12,000 words
Page Length: not typically longer than 100 pages

  • The first “real” book for children
  • Written for children becoming fluent readers
  • Protagonist is around 8 or 9 (the upper age range of the readers)
  • Contains a plot with setbacks
  • Start to see subplots and more complex story lines
  • Few to no illustrations
  • More complex sentences and plot development
  • Paragraphs are still short, about 2-4 sentences each

Examples: Magic Tree House, Charlotte’s Web

Middle Grade (MG)

Age: 8-12
Word Count: 20,000 – 40,000 words, depending on publisher
Page Length: over 100 pages

  • Longer chapters than found in chapter books
  • Often no illustrations
  • Content categories similar to adult fiction
    • mystery, adventure, humor, historical, fantasy, etc.
  • Series are popular
  • Plot lines directed to 10-12 year olds because kids read above their age
  • Intense subjects may bump the book into an older age category

US bookstores don’t differentiate between levels; must choose between MG and YA or YA and Adult. UK bookstores do differentiate and have a “between” category.

Example: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Holes

Lower Middle Grade

Age: 7-10
Word Count: 20,000 – 35,000

  • Themes will be complex but approachable: no kissing, no gory violence, subtle politics, if any at all
  • Have a subplot or two
  • Uses elements like humor, fantasy, or magic realism, or explores factual, science-based ideas and historical events
Upper Middle Grade

Age: 10-13
Word Count: 45,000 – 55,000

  • Themes are more complex and mature, explored in an age-appropriate way from the protagonist’s point of view
  • Still not as detailed or ‘angsty’ as young adult
  • Sometimes referred to as “tween” especially if the themes explicitly explore pre-tween issues

Young Adult (YA)

Age: 12 to adult
Word Count: 40,000 – 75,000 words
Page Length: varies

  • Content categories similar to and read like adult fiction
    • mystery, adventure, humor, historical, fantasy, etc.
  • Explore issues and topics that teens can relate to
  • Heavy with “Firsts”
    • First kiss, starting high school, entering the adult world, etc.
  • Characters must be 13+ for Barnes & Noble to shelf it under Young Adult and not kids
  • Includes more adult content (such as sexuality, mental illness, politics, etc.)
  • How explicit/what the message is depends on the publisher. Some publishers seek these topics out, others avoid them.
  • Emerging category of New Adult that targets readers between 18-30

Examples: The Book Thief, The Hate U Give, The Fault in Our Stars, Ready Player One


Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine, ISBN: 978-0-06-236717-4

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul, ISBN: 978-1-58-297556-6

Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2019 by Writer’s Digest, ISBN: 978-1-44-035440-3 (Updated yearly)

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

Getting Started:


SCBWI is the only professional organization specifically for individuals who write and illustrate for children and young adults. Our mission is to support the creation and availability of quality children’s books in every region of the world.

We give established writers and illustrators the tools and resources to manage their careers, as well as educate those just starting out. SCBWI is also proud to serve as a consolidated voice for our members within the publishing industry.

Membership in SCBWI is open to anyone with an active interest in children’s literature, from picture books to young adult novels. We welcome aspiring and published writers and illustrators, as well as librarians, educators, artists, students, dramatists, musicians, filmmakers, translators, and others. A passion for children’s literature is our number one criterion.


Advice for Young Writers and Illustrators from Children’s Book Creators

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author and illustrator of Where Are My Books? and Sam & Eva (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). Her illustrations also appear in books by Michael Ian Black, Judy Blume, Rob Sanders, Lauren McLaughlin, Aaron Reynolds and Colby Sharp. For more info about Debbie and upcoming projects, see You can find Debbie on Twitter at @inkyelbows and on Instagram at @inkygirl.


Writing World

Rachelle Burk’s Resources for Children’s Writers

Children’s Book Insider (Monthly Magazine)

Ellen Jackson, author of over 60 children’s books

Summer Edward, Children’s Literature and Publishing Consultant

UNG The Gold I See: The Legacy of UNG’s Dahlonega Campus — Art Sample

We are incredibly excited for the release of our first children’s book: UNG The Gold I See: The Legacy of UNG’s Dahlonega Campus written by Dr. Bonita Jacobs and illustrated by J’Nelle Short. There’s only five short weeks until its release on November 27, 2018.

Today, we’re sharing the first inside-look at the art and characters. Benjamin Smith, his daughter Jamie, and grandson Tommy each have a different goal during Visitor’s Day at UNG’s Dahlonega Campus. The grandfather wants to recall the memories of his years in the Corps of Cadets. The mother wants to remember her years in the nursing program. And the grandson wants to find UNG Dahlonega’s legendary treasure: the gold hidden somewhere on campus. He has Nigel the Nighthawk and a treasure map to guide him; his grandfather and mother have the memories. What do you have?

Intrigued? Click here to view the UNG Gold art sample (PDF).

The front cover of UNG The Gold I See by Dr. Bonita Jacobs, illustrated by J'Nelle Short. A red-headed boy holds a treasure map. Price Memorial and it's gold steeple stand behind him. A nighthawk, the UNG mascot, guides his way.
Illustrated by J’Nelle Short

Read more about UNG The Gold I See:

Link-N-Blogs: January 10, 2014

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” – C.S. Lewis

  1. The Military and the Monarchy Reviewed: The University Press of North Georgia book, The Military and the Monarchy: The Case and Career of the Duke of Cambridge in an Age of Reform by Kevin W. Farrell was reviewed by Martin Rubin for the Washington Times.
  2. What Your Favorite Children’s Book Series Says About You: Huffington Post showcases some of the most popular children’s book series and postulate what your favorite children’s series says about you. Do you agree with their assessments? Hit the comments!
  3. Reading a Novel Changes Your Brain: Most readers know this already, but know we have scientific evidence to back us up! A new study from Emory University looks at how the brain changes function and structure over the course of reading a fiction novel. Read (and stimulate your brain) more by clicking on this The Atlantic article.
  4. NetGalley and ABA Team Up for Indies: “Digital galley distributor NetGalley has partnered with the American Booksellers Association on a program that will facilitate broader distribution of galleys to independent booksellers…” Read more at Publisher’s Weekly.
  5. Quotes From the Late Amiri Baraka: Writer and poet Amiri Baraka passed away January 9, 2014 at the age of 79. Buzzfeed has put together 12 of his inspiration quotes.

 “There is no depth to education without art.” – Amiri Baraka

 By Johnny Dee, The Guardian:
By Johnny Dee, The Guardian:

Link-N-Blogs: Nov 4, 2013

Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”–Mark Twain

  1. New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2013: Check out this slideshow with sample artwork from some of the best children’s books from this year.
  2. China Has Established Their First Literary University: China takes another step forward and now has an online literary university. The university plans to provide free training to ten thousand people a year.
  3. Murder Has Always Been a Part of Children’s Books: An author from Ohio State University points out how the Hunger Games aren’t the only children’s books to have violence. He provides examples such as Harry Potter, Snow White, and Tarzan.
  4. Must Watch Mafia Movies: Literature often mirrors society. What we read in books and watch on TV tends to relate to our lives. Everyone has a fascination with Mafia movies, and they usually get some of the highest ratings of movies. This list won’t disappoint!
  5. New Novel By Ian McEwan Is Not Your Usual Thriller: Ian McEwan, a British writer who has won about every major British literary award, has written a new book called Sweet Tooth. Make sure to check out this new spy novel that will keep you on your toes throughout the book.

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”–Thomas Jefferson


Link-N-Blogs: Oct 4, 1013

“Satire lies about literary men while they live and eulogy lies about them when they die.”–Voltaire


1) Science: Good or evil?

As science and technology advances, we find ourselves continuing to wonder how far are we willing to push the boundaries. When Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein, Or The Modern Day Prometheus, people considered the possibility of bringing the dead back to life. Now as the world continues to grow and develop, we turn to science to see if certain diseases will be cured, if people will be able to live longer, will cloning be allowed, or even if we can potentially play God’s roll and resurrect the dead. So I ask you, how far is too far?

2) A Survey of Literature’s Non-Traditional Marriage Proposals 

“Some proposals are perhaps better forgotten. The following unromantic, bizarre, poorly delivered or conceived proposals elicit reactions less like Molly Bloom’s orgasmically affirmative “Yes I will yes I will yes!” and more like this underwhelmed response to a lackluster offer in David Stacton’s A Fox Inside: “You might at least pretend…that I’m a person. After all, I move and talk like one the best way I can.” –Matt Seidel

3) This Week’s Cover: Inside ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’

A new installment of The Hunger Games is set to hit the big screen. November 22nd marks the day that the movie hits a theatre near you. The sequel contains all your favorite characters, including Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Peeta (Josh Hutchinson), and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Don’t miss the premiere of Catching Fire and be sure to also get the all new soundtrack with features such as Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, Ellie Golding, Of Monsters and Men, The Lumineers, and one of the best up-and-coming artists, The Weeknd.

4) Top 100 Children’s Books of All Time

An extensive list of some of the best and most memorable children’s books are listed on this website. Some of these books have greatly influenced my childhood and just about everyone can find a book that they can vividly remember. Which ones do you remember, while being in a your bed, curled up next to a pillow, as your parents read to you, right before you feel asleep? What comes in at the top spot?–Where The Wild Things Are.

5) Surface Pro 2 vs. iPad, Apple vs. Microsoft

Reading, watching movies, surfing the Internet. Tablets allow you to do many things, but there are many brands and choices out there.  Which one would you rather use?


“There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book.”–Philip Pullman