Kids love Halloween and you can capitalize on their enjoyment of this fun, spooky season by introducing scary-fun books, stories, jokes, and cartoons to make your child’s home reading fun, too. ‘Tis the season to be frightened—is that a bad thing for children?
Are Scary Stories Harmful for Kids?
According to experts, children, by age seven, know the difference between make-believe and fact, lies and truth, and real horror and “pretend” horror. There is merit in exposing children to frightening tales for several good reasons, but only within acceptable boundaries. In other words, you should make your decision about how spooky or frightening a suitable story should be on a child-by-child basis and book-by-book basis.
What is acceptable for a child at age ten differs from what is acceptable for a child at age seven; what is acceptable for a strong, adventurous child differs from what is acceptable for a child who is timid. Guidance should come from the child himself, and frightening tales should never be forced on anyone.
Scary Stories Can be Beneficial for Kids
Stories that scare children—within reason, of course—can be beneficial and help them through various stages of development. You can’t prevent children from feeling anxious and fearful: children worry about being abandoned, not being loved, and not being accepted. They are afraid of the dark, afraid of strangers, afraid of looking foolish. They are afraid that their parents might die or might leave them. They struggle with negative emotions of envy, greed, and anger. Protecting children from exposure to scary stories doesn’t protect them from fear and anxiety.
Within the scary story, however, the witch dies, the goblin vanishes, the little ghost becomes a friend. Stories of children coping with fearful experiences helps restore a child’s belief in himself and in his own ability to triumph over fears and any future frightening experiences that he may encounter.
Choose from Three Main Types of Scary Stories
- Fun Scary – These are scream-giggle stories that produce anxiety and pleasure at the same time and the child can remain detached: “it’s a story and it’s funny-scary and it isn’t happening to me.”
- Fairy Tale Scary – These stories are often about real fears such as being lost or separated from a parent, but they help children deal with such fears. In the famous tale of Hansel and Gretel, the children look after themselves and each other during the frightening experiences of being abandoned and lost, and they triumph over a dangerous witch.
- Serious Scary – These stories explore serious issues and serious dangers, such as family violence, and they help older children prepare for unpleasantness in the world.
There are numerous lists of scary, fairy, and spooky stories, and it isn’t difficult to find suitable books in these categories. Librarians and sales professionals in bookstores are happy to steer you to the most popular choices for various ages and reading abilities. The following books are a few of those recommended by The Canadian Children’s Book Center ‘s List:
- Don’t Enter the House —Grades Grade 1-3; ages 6-9
- Franklin’s Halloween—Grade 2; ages 3-8
- Alison’s Ghosts—Grade 3; ages 8-10
- The Graveyard Hounds—Grades 3-5; ages 8-10
- Double Spell—Grades 3-5; ages 8-12
- Ghost Messages—Grades 4-6; ages 9-12
- The Burning Time—Grades 6-7; ages 12 plus
- The Gravesavers—Grades 6-8, ages 12 plus
If your child indicates an interest in reading scary stories, it’s an invitation to provide them. He is excited about engaging in frightening experiences from the safety of a fictional story. If the prospect of a scary story provides the motivation to read with the additional security of your presence during the reading, what could be better? You’ll both have fun.
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