How to Create a Book that is Truly Valuable for Kids: Backmatter
There’s a lot more going on in a high quality picture book than might meet the eye. I want to dive into the backmatter section of a picture book in this blog post. Informational texts are not new, nor is backmatter. However, I wanted to remind authors and creators of the value that this can bring to a book. Other topics will come soon! So, let’s get into it!
Backmatter: Some may be scratching your head, wondering what this means. Backmatter is an informational section, usually in the back of a book, that shares educational content for the reader about the subject matter in the book. That’s it!
Why would you want this in a picture book?
For authors and publishers, this adds a great deal of value to the book. Educators and librarians specifically can draw on this information in lesson plans and events. For example, a story about a turtle can transform from “just” a story to educational experience about turtles. This makes the book even more marketable!
In our picture book, Escape to Play, a backmatter section was added to give the reader some questions and facts about classic artwork. This is a great way to add a re-readability component. Firstly, the reader can ask questions to a child about the artwork. Secondly, they or a teacher, can share art terminology with children.
You will want to vet the information and have a qualified and experienced editor review the material. This is vital. The last thing you want to do is produce a book with misinformation. You can source the material by getting in touch with a museum, for example, if your backmatter includes historical facts. A zoo or veterinarian could be a great resource for information about animals. Get creative with how you gather information.
Keep in mind who your audience is:
Kids will be reading this information. You do not want it to be above their age level. Readers of picture books can range from preschool age to about 8 years old, for example. Review your subject matter and present facts in a way they can understand. Remember to give kids credit- they are capable of understanding and learning the material. Having beta readers read over the material is the best way to gauge their engagement.
But what if you don’t include backmatter!?
Don’t worry- not every book needs backmatter. Each story needs to be evaluated for what it is and what it brings. Sometimes, anything added to the end might disrupt what the reader is to take away from the story. If a story is meant to leave the reader feeling an emotion, it might be jarring to add backmatter at the end. Stay true to what your book needs.
At the end of the day, teachers, librarians, and parents will appreciate the additional material in a picture book. Backmatter adds value. As much as we all love a great story, adding educational information to the book is like frosting on a cake- it makes it that much sweeter!