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In-Depth Review: Writing for Young Readers: Opening the Treasure Chest

Detailed review by Class Central user Pilar Reyes Bolaños on a course that will inspire you to write a publishable children’s story.

This review is by Mary Paulson. After spending 7 years in West Africa working with street children, teaching English, and running a children’s library, Mary now lives in the U.S. with her family.

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Only a few months ago, I discovered the world of MOOCs for the first time. Fascinated with so many free courses, I wondered if I could find a class on writing adult non-fiction. Searching through the list of courses, a class called Writing for Young Readers caught my eye. Even though I have a graduate degree in education, have extensive experience working with children in West Africa, and have edited children’s curriculum, I had never thought of writing my own stories for children. I signed up for the course simply because I thought it would be a good class to refresh me on the basics of writing, not because I had any intention of writing for children. What I didn’t know was that this class would be much more than a course on writing. It would be an inspiration to discover all the stories inside me needing to be told.


Writing for Young Readers: Opening the Treasure Chest is a course from the Commonwealth Education Trust designed for writers of all levels. As a five-week, self-paced course, it inspires even those who have never attempted to write a publishable piece. Like the title indicates, the course covers writing specifically for children and youth. It uses a variety of video lectures, guest author interviews, online readings, a community forum, and peer-reviewed assignments during each of the five weeks. Writing for Young Readers guides the student through elements such as finding your identity as a writer, understanding the finer points of narrative, becoming skilled at self-editing, and learning insights into getting published.


The information is great for beginner writer and I think any writers could take something away from it.
Review by Class Central user 

During the first three weeks of the course, instructor David Hill presents the lectures and interviews. Hill, a New Zealand author with over 30 years of writing experience, has published books for both children and adults. He explains in detail the specifics of writing, such as writing from one’s own memories and cultural experience, using genre, and identifying the target audience. When I first began the course, I already knew these basics, but David Hill’s engaging manner and practical explanations helped me use them with a greater confidence. He offered ideas on how to set aside time on a weekly basis to write, even when balancing a busy life. He also had practical advice on how to overcome writer’s block. I appreciated how he shared from his own experiences as a writer. When he interviewed authors such as Uma Krishnaswami and Finegan Kruckemeyer, he asked them to give their own advice to new writers taking the course.


David Hill

What I appreciated most about David Hill was his deep confidence that those who had no writing experience could still write and be published someday. Each week, through the writing assignments, I saw improvement in myself. I think it was mostly because I was developing a better confidence in my writing.

Maria Gill was the instructor for the last two weeks of the course. She is a teacher and journalist, and has experience in many genres. The focus of her video lectures and interviews was on editing and publishing. She included editing checklists as a writing tool. I appreciated her detail on those lists, and will use them in the future. She also brought some great insights into the different ways to get published. Her teaching became especially practical to me when she provided lists of publishers and suggested that we, as potential authors, compile a notebook of information on each publisher so we know what to expect when we venture into the world of publishing.


Submitting my work to strangers was intimidating, but it boosted my confidence as well.  

Because Writing for Young Readers: Opening the Treasure Chest is easy enough for the newest of writers, I believe it is the kind of course that one can breeze through quickly and be refreshed on the basics, or spend more time on and be thoroughly inspired and challenged. The only prerequisite for the course is a basic mastery of the English language. The course work took a couple hours or so each week. Most assignments were a writing sample of 500 words or less, uploaded to the class site and reviewed by 2 or more classmates. Submitting my work to strangers was intimidating, but it boosted my confidence as well. Some peer reviews were helpful; others were not. Even though peer-review guidelines would have been helpful, I didn’t find it to be a big problem. Grading was based on inclusion of the basics covered in that week’s course materials, and each peer-reviewer checked those off a list as they read the completed assignment.


Although I’d still like to write for adults, this course opened a door for me to do something I never had the inspiration or confidence to do before. The writing samples I created for my assignments are now something I’m considering as part of a book of children’s stories. If you have an interest in writing for children or are already doing so and need further inspiration, this course is a great starting point!


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