The big motivators that inspire children to read and keep on reading are the fascinating page-turners that tell of great adventures, exciting mysteries, heroic children, and tales that deal with monsters, ghosts, the weird, and the scary.
Yes, this is the time of year to offer children the chance to read spooky Halloween stories geared to their age and their willingness to experience fear through fictional accounts within the safe harbor of home and family.
Exploring Fearful Situations Is Beneficial for Children
Children, like people of all ages, are afraid of many things and shielding them from scary stories doesn’t save them from experiencing fear nor does it protect them from nightmares. In fact, fear is a normal human emotion and they must learn to deal with it, just as they must learn to deal with envy, disappointment, and failure. These emotions are a part of life, and the fears they imagine are usually much worse than reality.
When reading or hearing a story about frightening situations or scary creatures, children learn that there are worse things than dark bedrooms, worrying about monsters under the bed, or being left alone. Children in storybooks do not curl up in a ball, cry, give up, and wait to be rescued. They confront their fears and the fearful situations and take action, and it makes for an exciting, even chilling, story. What will happen next?
Often, the scary situation isn’t as bad as it seemed at first (the ghost is friendly and frightened, too) or, by making a sensible decision, the children can save themselves (push the witch into the closet, lock the door, and run away). Children learn that even young people can cope and triumph over frightening situations.
Fear is Useful Survival Tool
Youngsters are often unaware that everybody, including adults, experience fear, too. They may not understand the purpose of fear, which is a survival instinct and useful to all of us. e.g., Don’t invite vampires into your house—they can’t come in unless invited and you can keep them away outdoors by holding up a silver crucifix or a cross fashioned by crossed silver spoons. Whew! What a relief.
Some Halloween stories teach lessons about survival and offer good reminders to kids:
- Don’t leave home without telling your parents where you are going.
- Don’t take a shortcut through the graveyard at night or through the dark forest alone.
- Don’t take candy from strangers or an old lady who invites you to eat a piece of her candy-constructed house.
- Some fears are real, but others are not, and you can decide if something is real by examining clues and from reading scary stories with a parent and learning there are no such creatures as vampires, monsters, and werewolves, and they exist only in literature.
When a story tells of children facing a scary situation, it is a reminder to children that they are capable of evaluating a situation, deciding if a fear is real or imaginary, remembering the safety rules they learned from parents and school and, if the fear is rational, not to be afraid of taking action: scream, run, seek help, defend themselves.
Fun-Scary Halloween Stories Can Be Useful, Too
Halloween stories should be age appropriate, and amusing Halloween stories with “Boo!” and “What was that?” sprinkled around often enough can be the perfect choice to keep young children and early readers gasping with delicious fright.
- What will happen if the little witch keeps picking up creatures to ride on her broom? Will she get them to their destination? Will the broom break? Doesn’t she realize this might not be safe?
- What is Angelina Ballerina going to do next? How will Franklin manage all his problems this Halloween?
Children are very different and can handle different levels of “scariness” depending on their age and their nature. If your child doesn’t want to visit scary-looking homes on Halloween, offer them only amusing stories rather than scary stories regardless of their age. Children will let you know if they find a story too frightening and, if reading on their own, will put a book down if it makes them fearful. Kids are good at self-regulating their reading material.
Scary Stories Can be Reassuring to Children
Sharing scary stories with parents or reading them at home is comforting to children. The frightful event is just a story; it isn’t real; home and safety are right here. Rather than being afraid, children can enjoy a vicarious thrill from a safe distance, and will want to keep reading to find out what happens next. Halloween stories not only motivate children to read, they give parents a thrill, too—the thrill of seeing their children reading and loving it.
Do you encourage your children to read scary stories if they ask for them?
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