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I’m now the author of 20 guided reading books or a type of beginning readers. I thought I’d share my journey on writing these tiny stories for young kids.

Since I was an elementary teacher, mainly in kindergarten and first grade, I was very familiar with these kinds of books. After I started writing, I needed to build credits for a writing resume. Naturally, I started writing for education. My first project was writing stories for a private school’s reading curriculum. These stories matched a theme, had controlled vocabulary and word count, plus comprehension questions. That was great experience for my next project.

My second big project was writing for Lakeshore Learning. For teachers, Lakeshore is like the granddaddy of all educational publishers–the one teachers save their pennies for. I simply answered an ad they placed in the LA Times Career Builder for an educational writer, former teacher!! I took a small writing test and was accepted.  I hadn’t been writing very long and found myself at a meeting at their headquarters with a room full of editors, writers, and developers. Oh my goodness! The developer explained the project to me, and I was sent home with an assignment to write 16 guided readers for 1st -2nd graders. Having on hand the Children’s Writer’s Word Book, by Alijandra Mogilner and Phonics from A to Z: A Practical Guide by Wiley Blevins proved very useful. The books I wrote were phonics-based. I even got to write illustration directions for each page, something picture book writers are told not to do. The only negative thing about these books is that the publisher changes the author’s name. So my pen name for these is Martin Vega. Go figure. They came out Feb. 2011. You can see them here.

Markets for Children’s Writers blog and Ev Christensen’s web site “Educational Markets for Children’s Writers” are where I’ve found most of my educational writing projects. I just finished writing a 4-book guided reading series on pets for Compass Media based in Korea/California. All of these work-for-hire projects are time-based. I had two weeks for this one. These books were very difficult as the text had to meet a certain Lexile percent. You can read about Lexiles here. They also followed a controlled vocabulary list and theme. Every word counted, a sentence picture book writers are familiar with! I even chose the photographs! (No, I didn’t have to pay for them.) These books might be published in time to be on display at the book fair in Bologna, Italy, in March! I can’t wait to see them.

If you’d like to write for education or beginning readers, I suggest you read as many as you can find. Note sentence length, word count, subject matter, publishers. Research publishers’ web sites and see who’s looking for writers + their guidelines. Most educational publishers will have you take a writing test. Check the educational standards and see which topics each grade level studies. Familiarize yourself with guided reading levels and what each level entails.

I hope you found some useful information. I’m so thankful to God for allowing me to write. Let me know if you have questions, and I can try to answer them.

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