I think it is important to never talk down to kids. Their brains are small, but mighty. Even an eight years old’s brain has as much raw computing power as an adult, and is probably better at learning than the ossified brains of their parents. They simply haven’t been on the planet as long. Seriously, that is your only advantage, parents, so use it well.
However, when talking to kids you need to translate to kid-language. Kid-speak is not slang, or baby-talk – it is the simplified, yet potent, way of talking directly to those very smart little brains. Kids don’t need, or tolerate, all the qualifiers and ramblings. Just the facts, ma’am.
I just finished Draft 2 of my middle grade science fiction novel BYRNE RISK, which is heavy on the tech details. It was no small feat to weave the technology into the story, putting it in kid-speak but also not slowing the story down. In the end, I created The Science Files, an appendix at the end that talks about all the real science behind the story science. I just sent this out to my kid-beta-readers (how fun is that?), and the response has been very instructive for me.
I was afraid that it would be too technical, too much detail, or simply confusing. I was afraid they might be overwhelmed by it. I was, after all, talking about genetic engineering and black holes and anti-matter engines. Not simple stuff. Here’s an excerpt from The Science Files . . .
In real science, anti-matter exists and has been produced by physicists in large particle-accelerator chambers, like CERN and HaDRON. Anti-matter is the opposite of matter, just like negative numbers are the opposite of positive numbers. When anti-matter collides with regular matter, a tremendous amount of energy is released, along with meson particles (particles smaller than an atom) and dangerous gamma radiation.
But the early reviews from the kids show just the opposite: they understood it and wanted MORE. I’ve come to find, from my own children as well as their friends, that wanting MORE is the highest kid compliment. And they’re pretty demanding about it.
So, while finishing up edits and revisions and endless searches for misplaced commas is not very exciting, having a draft that I can send out to reviewers, both the kid and writer variety, IS exciting. In fact, having readers want MORE is what it’s really all about.