As a writer of fiction, I find myself facing lots of questions as I begin a new project. No matter what I’m looking for, my first stop has become the children’s section at my local library. Whether it is the ankylosaurus, Annie Oakley or, more recently, 16th-18th century sailing ships, the information in the children’s library is the same as it would be anywhere else. Here are my reasons to start at the children’s section.
1. Discover the World as a Child Would
The children’s section of the library is filled of course, with shelves full of books, and organized like any other part of the library. The fiction sections are laid out just like the adult shelves, in order by author’s name, but rather than being sorted by genre, they are sorted by age group and reading level. The non-fiction section is exactly like the adult library, sorted and shelved according to the Dewey Decimal System.
However, there are some major differences between the adult section and the children’s section. First, and most obvious, the shelves are shorter. So I may have to sit on the floor to peruse the books in my subject of interest, but I won’t have to find someone to help me reach a book on the top shelf. Also, the children’s section of the library is noisier. There is a play room where kids can go and discover fun things about our world (currently, it’s set up like a grocery store!). The librarians aren’t stern-faced cliches glaring over the rims of their glasses to shush anyone. And there are wonderful displays such as a fully outfitted doll house and a beautiful fish tank.
I love the creativity of the children’s library. Also, since I write for children, it makes sense to me to read about the things I intend to write about as a child would. I can always do more digging on a subject if I find it necessary. A book written for children focuses more on the interesting details rather than the technical aspects of a subject. They are usually beautifully illustrated which lends even more to the imagination and creativity. In reading them, I can find myself fascinated by the subject like a child would be, curious and full of wonder.
2. Don’t Get Caught up in the Details
I don’t know about you, but for me, research can become very distracting. I will uncover ten new questions for every one I find an answer for. Or I can be drawn off subject by a fascinating side note. Internet research makes this sort of thing even harder to avoid. I get fascinated by the numerous tiny details of a subject and find myself moving away from the matter at hand – the story.
With children’s books, I can get a broad overview of my subject without getting so caught up in the details. I get distracted easily, so the broad brush strokes offered by a children’s book can actually help me narrow my focus to learn just what I need for the story I’m working on.
3. It’s Not All About Me
Finally, the best part of doing my research from the children’s library? I get to spend time with my sons reading and talking about sailing ships or dinosaurs or spider, if they insist. And they get to be part of my work. So yes, I do my research in the children’s library. I get to take my kids to the library, spend time with them and learn new things with them, find out what interests them.
My boys will not be small forever, and reading with them, sharing my love of words with them, is priceless. They are the reason I keep writing in the first place. We may as well enjoy the ride together.
Research is an integral part of writing. As long as there is something to write, there will be research needing to be done. Currently, I’m learning about sailing ships from the 18th century. Next up, I want to learn more about space travel. Maybe after that it will be the geography of Japan, or the traditions of Santeria. I may not be able to learn everything in the children’s library, but it’s an excellent place to start.
How do you go about your research? I’d love to hear about your methods.