Dual Readership

Dual Readership refers to the process of constructing a work or text, also called crossover literature, which can play to two different levels of understanding for various audiences. This practice is most commonly employed in children’s literature.

Dual Readership in Children’s Literature

Children's literature is often created to appeal to a dual readership of children and adults. This practice, also known as “cross-writing” (Knoepflmacher & Myers, 1997: vii), not only adheres to the broader individual reading experiences of the child and adult audience but also specifically the simultaneous reading of children’s books during, for example, story time. During this time, children and adults can find different layers of meaning or enjoyment targeted to that age group within the same work. The versatility of the content allows the respective reader to interpret the story according to their individual experiences and levels of understanding or reading capabilities.

Children’s books authors who aim to speak to a broader audience often establish a narrative, easily relatable for younger readers, and then insert subtle aspects, whether references or themes, that more readily engage adults. A famous example of such crossover literature is Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865).

Discussions around Children’s and Adult Literature

Since these classic works were published, there has been a rise in popularity in cross-writing. Authors have been seen to redirect their usual target audience or even rewrite their works to provide material for the dual readership. Expanding the audience broadens the opportunity for books sales and inspires the discussion surrounding the boundaries and biases of child and adult literature.

Sandra Beckett (2013) readily links the concept of a dual readership in children’s literature to transcending boundaries between children and adults, not only in the respective literature but also societally. Within this discourse, it has been debated whether this transcendence will result in the complete breakdown of the barriers between child and adult literature or whether these attempts to find common ground between the age groups will reinforce the divide within literature.


Beckett, S. L. (Ed.). (2013). Transcending boundaries: writing for a dual audience of children and adults. Routledge.

Carroll, L. (1865). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Macmillan.

Knoepflmacher, U. C., & Myers, M. (1997). From the Editors:" Cross-Writing" and the Reconceptualizing of Children's Literary Studies. Children's Literature, 25(1), vii-xvii.