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Want to Make Money Writing? Write Magazine Articles for Kids
by Lucile Davis

The very best and fastest way to make money writing is to turn out magazine articles for children on topics of math and science. Ok, I hear all you liberal arts majors groaning, but don't. It isn't necessary to be an expert in science or math to write about it and make it fun for kids.

If you are an active environmentalist or just an avid gardener, you can turn out fun features on topics related to plants, animals, ecosystems, and how kids might get involved in preservation projects.

Are you a musician? Did you know there is a close correlation between math and music? Exploring this idea might be a fun article for children's magazines.

Worried about household hazardous waste, such as old cleaning agents, motor oil, or batteries? How do these items impact our environment and where can they be disposed of without damaging natural resources? The beauty of this topic is it can be written for kids, then rewritten for adults.

Doing the Research

Writing science or math articles for children does not require in depth research, but it does require accurate research. The good news is-doing the research is fun. It can be almost as much fun as a treasure hunt. The key is in knowing where to look.

* The Internet

A great hunting ground for research and experts is the Internet. Using your article topic as "keywords", search the Internet for basic information on your topic. Often universities, government agencies, and company information sites will have enough information on your topic to write a complete article. However, resist the urge. If your topic is on hazardous waste, find information from all three sources mentioned above. University sites may have the latest information on hazardous waste damage. Government agencies post current laws and legal hazardous waste disposal methods and sites. And company sites will have information on what the industry is doing to help clean up the environment. In addition, you could find "leading experts" in the field. For example-a web search for information on anaconda snakes led me to the "leading U.S. expert" on these big reptiles. When the "expert" learned the information was a book for children, he sent a copy of his about to be published manuscript. What a find!

* Libraries, Universities, Parks & Museums

A writer's best friends are the local librarians. Even in these high-tech times, librarians hold more information in their heads than many desktop computers. Years of filing and fact finding are available to you just by asking the librarian in the science and math sections of your library. These nice people will know the resources you need to consult in both the print and electronic media. Sometimes they even know who the best resource people are in your town.

Universities can't be beat for finding "the experts". The campus is full of them, and not all of them are professors. Graduate research assistants are on the leading edge of today's research. Don't overlook them. Both professors and research assistants are usually more than happy to give interviews on their favorite topic-their research.

Zoological and nature parks are a fun place to do research. A nature center usually gives regular tours. Take your kids and spend a fun afternoon learning about the animals, bugs, and plants in the park. Find one that seems to catch the kids' attention, then make an appointment for a telephone interview with a park ranger. This interview could lead you to another resource or two.

Museums of natural history can also provide valuable information. These museums often have staff researchers and each researcher will have a favorite topic. Another family outing will bring you in contact with these interesting folks.

* Government Agencies

Your local government can be a terrific source of information on natural resources, waste management, animal care and safety, park regulations and resources, and environmental engineering and design. For instance: Did you ever wonder exactly how water travels from your house drains to the water treatment plants and where it goes after that? How does a city know how many parks it needs? How are parks designed? Are there leash laws for pot-bellied pigs or are they considered farm animals in your city? So many topics, so little time. Your city's public information officer will be able to help you find the people in city government who can help you with the answers.

Doing the Writing

Once you have your information, the next thing is, of course, to write it down. There are three things to remember about writing articles for kids. Make it fun, keep it focused, and be brief about it.

* Make It Fun

Open your article with a "wow" factor, a topic that will make your young audience think "Wow, I didn't know that!" For instance: Meteor showers happen all the time and you can help scientists gather information on them. Or, Can you name the seven deadliest snakes in the world? Hint: The anaconda is not one of them. (If you define deadly as "poisonous", this statement is true.) The point is-you must grab the young reader's attention right away.

* Keep It Focused

Make sure you choose a topic that can be covered within 800-1,200 words. That's the bad news. The good news is, finding a "wow" factor provides you with the focus of your article. Your article then unfolds in three parts: Introduction: Present the "wow" factor and any necessary definitions (such as the definition of "deadly" as "poisonous".) Middle: Explain the "wow" factor (the snake story's middle would contain the information about the difference between the venomous snakes and the constrictors, then name the seven deadliest venomous snakes in the world. End: Restate the opening, summarize the article, and close with information on where youngsters can learn more about the topic. Sources can include books and Internet sites.

* Be Brief About It

It is rare for children's magazines to print articles of 2,000 words or longer. The range listed above is about average. For the pre-reader or early reader audience, the article length is about 500 words. In addition to keeping the text short, make sure the sentences and paragraphs are short. For pre- and early readers (pre-K-third grade), simple sentences (subject/verb/object) of no more than 10-11 words are about right. Limit sentences in paragraphs to three or four. And, of course, keep the vocabulary age appropriate. For help with grade-school level vocabulary, your best resource is Alijandra Mogilner's Children's Writer's Word Book. It can be found in most libraries and bookstores. For grades four through six, sentences can be longer, but keep within eighteen to twenty words. Phrases and clauses can be used, but stay away from using semi-colons. Instead of using a semi-colon, use a period and begin a new sentence. For junior and senior high students, sentence length and vocabulary can match that of adult level articles. However, it is still important to keep the paragraphs short. Leave friendly white space for your young readers. There is nothing more daunting than a page full of print. It will stop kids from reading almost anything.

Writing entertaining and informative articles for kids about science or math can be both interesting and lucrative. All you have to do is be sure to make the article fun, keep it focused, make sure it is accurate, and be brief. Happy $$$$$ writing!

© Copyright 2002, Lucile Davis

Lucile Davis is the author of 15 children's nonfiction books, 10 of them published in 1998. Her books are published through Capstone Press and Grolier's Children's Press. She is also a feature writer for local and regional newspapers and magazines. Currently, she is a feature writer for Fort Worth, Texas magazine published by Magnolia Media Group. In addition to her writing, she is a frequent presenter at writer's conferences and workshops. She teaches Writing for Children through Texas Christian University's Extended Education and is an instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature.

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