The Institute of Children’s Literature

The Institute of Children’s Literature

Long, long ago in the spring of 1996, I found an ad about the Institute of Children’s Literature in West Redding, Connecticut, offering their course on writing for children.  I was impressed that they required their students to take an aptitude test before accepting them, so I decided to take the test.

A few weeks later, I received a letter congratulating me on passing the test, along with a personalized commentary of my writing.  The Institute invited me to register for the course, which wasn’t surprising to me, since I figured they probably wanted as many students as possible to pay the tuition.

As parents of two young children in a one-income family, however, we really could not afford luxuries like this—nor did I have the extra time and energy to devote to a class.  Besides, I wasn’t convinced that I needed a teacher to hone my writing skills, and I already had some of the course books.  So I thanked them and explained why I wasn’t registering.  But I kept their letter and complementary comments about my writing skills, and over the years that followed, I dreamed of one day being able to take the course.

About a year ago I was able, so I researched many different online and traditional children’s writing courses, and read some online reviews.  As far as I was concerned, the “Writing for Children and Teenagers” course offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature still looked like the best.

I sent in a slightly different aptitude test (this time via the internet) and was delighted to receive their congratulations for the second time on passing it.  Then they surprised me by telling me that I hadn’t needed to re-take the test, because they had already accepted me into the course in 1996.  Imagine an organization that keeps initial contact documents for fourteen years!  I was impressed.

I am now working on Assignment 8 of this 10-part course and love every minute of it.  Well, maybe not every minute—it is hard work, but still enjoyable.  Here are some of the benefits I’ve found:

  • Students receive an assignment binder, assignments & course books in the mail, then email assignments every 6 wks or so.  I’ve typically gotten a response from my mentor within 3 to 7 days.
  • No problem getting an extension (I needed one at Christmas time, and the extra 2 – 3 weeks was great)
  • Each assignment is about 30 pages (plus assigned reading in the course textbooks—very manageable and flexible according to your time constraints).
  • Instructions are step-by-step, not intimidating or overwhelming, and if you want additional exercises there are more than enough.
  • Students have options for payment (I saved a bit of money by paying $730 in a one lump sum payment).
  • Most of what a student writes as assignments are ready to be submitted for publication—especially after revising per the mentor’s comments.
  • The Student Center on the ICL website is extensive with many resources, including chat rooms.
  • There is a nice camaraderie with the mentor; we don’t just send letters about the writing assignments.  It feels like a friendship.
  • Students get a free trial of the excellent Children’s Writer newsletter, published by ICL, with the latest info on markets and writing for children (very worthwhile, so I’ve subscribed).

Even after doing my own studying into the art and skill of writing for over fifteen years, I am learning a lot from every single assignment.  More than anything else, I appreciate my mentor’s personalized and very detailed edits, comments and suggestions on all of my writing.  The work is strenuous, but the help, support and encouragement are wonderful.

The school has fulfilled all of its promises and I highly recommend it!


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3 Comments

  1. Ruby Diana

    I completed my course at the Institute in 2008. As a professional teacher, I thought it would
    benefit me in developing and advancing my writing skills. So, I took the test, and signed up.
    Yes, I had to find time in my busy schedule, but every minute was worth it. My one-on-one
    instruction from a published author, was extremely helpful.
    Now, I’ve heard negative things said against The Institute of Children’s Literature. Don’t believe what you hear. The course is a wonderful opportunity to begin or expand your writing dreams.

    You may want to see for yourself what I made of this course.
    Read my book. You can find it by going to Google, type in EVERY CHILD by Ruby Diana, or
    you can go to Barnes & Noble, click on Search, then click on Books, Textbooks, DVD and go
    down 7 books. It’s a book that needs to be read by every parent, teacher, social worker, child care giver and pastor. I think you will appreciate my story.

    SO, “It Can Happen To You!”

    • It’s been a while — any new successes you’d like to share Ruby?

  2. Yes, it has been a while. I’m still writing and also support other new authors. You may want to read this compelling account of Military Abuse. Book: PRISONER OF PEACE by Lt. Col. William T. Hanson. You will find it in the TATE bookstore. A must read that will probably end up in a movie. Good luck to all writers who bring us such JOY. Ruby

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