All year long (but especially as Halloween approaches), the Library gets overrun with kids requesting scary books. But are scary books okay for kids to read? And how do you as a parent handle a request to read a scary book?
Before we go any further, let me remind you: YOU know your kid better than anyone else. YOU make the best judgment call about what is right for your child. I can give you advice about how to introduce scary stories, or even stories that will help children conquer fear, but it’s just advice. YOU are the parent that makes the choices about what your child reads. I’m not advising that you force scary stories on your children. However, if they show interest, here are some helpful things to know!
I believe that scary stories can be good for kids. They teach children the power of experiencing fear, then controlling that fear. “When children read or hear (scary) fairy tales, they project the good parts of themselves onto the hero or heroine and the bad parts onto the witch figure,” says Sheldon Cashdan, PhD, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and author of The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales. “Then every time the witch dies, it magically restores children’s faith in their ability to conquer their own troublesome emotions.”
One of my personal favorite scary books to share in Preschool Storytime is Go Away Big Green Monster. The book begins with children slowly building up a monster with very turn of the page adding big yellow eyes or purple scraggly hair or even a big read mouth with sharp white teeth. Then once the monster is created, the text reads ”GO AWAY Big Green Monster!” and page by page, children make the monster disappear. This book is so powerful for kids because they are in complete control of the monster (and fear) the entire time.
But what about older kids? The ones who read series like Goosebumps, Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark, or the local favorite, the Jeffrey books by Kathryn Tucker Windham. Why is this genre so popular with kids? Perhaps for the same reasons all readers like to cringe at ghost stories, laugh at comedy, or cry at drama. “Reading an emotionally complex story is practice, a way to go through real emotions with little consequence. Literature helps us make sense of our own lives. Through a story, we feel the emotions from the safety of outside the page,” says Stacey Laatsch, a Yahoo! Network Contributor.
What If a Book Is Too Scary?
Keep in mind that kids tend to be less scared by books than movies or TV. One reason is that stories are less graphic than TV. After all, in Red Riding Hood, you dont actually see the wolf eat the Grandmother! Another plus: its entirely in their control. The best thing about a book is that you can immediately close the pages if its too scary.
If this happens, talk to your kids about the book. What in it was too scary? Can you help them find a way to control that fear? If scary stories are causing trouble at bedtime, try reading them during the day instead. Many times reading a scary story with the comforting presence of an adult in the middle of the day will be comforting enough to make it through the book and conquer that fear!
Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone
Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
Scary, Scary, Halloween by Eve Bunting
Theres An Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams
Annie Was Warned by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain
For Grades 2-3
The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide by Linda Ashman
Bunnicula Series by James Howe
Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve (Magic Tree House Series) by Mary Pope Osborne
Frankenstein Takes the Cake by Adam Rex (Scary Poems)
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series by Alvin Schwartz
Golem by David Wisniewski
For Grades 3-5
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Half-Minute Horrors by Susan Rich and Various
The Seer of Shadows by Avi
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Amulet. Book 1, The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
My Rotten Life by David Lubar
Goosebumps by R. L. Stine
Any book by John Bellairs
Any ghost book by Kathryn Tucker Windham
A Drowned Maidens Hair: A Melodrama by Laura Amy Schlitz
A Tale Dark and Grimm byAdam Gidwitz
The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright
For Pre-teens and Teens
Any book by Lois Duncan
Any book by Joan Lowery Nixon
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children By Riggs, Ransom
Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
Cryers Cross by Lisa McMann
Want more suggestions for teens? Both Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com have
sections in their Teen areas for Horror.
For Grown-Ups (because you love a little spine tingle too)
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Don’t Breathe a Word: A Novel by Jennifer McMahon
Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Passage: A Novel by Justin Cronin
Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Madness by Edgar Allan Poe
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Want more suggestions for adults? Click here for the Bram Stoker Award Reading List.
Lexie Robinson Austin is one of the few born and raised Huntsville natives. She is a stepmom to one, a librarian to many, a reader of books, and baker of cookies. She likes ridiculously impractical shoes and the color pink.