If there is one thing all children have in common, it is a love of horror movies and spooky stories. While fictional worlds are appealing to kids of all ages, witches, vampires, and other monsters are just irresistible for kids. When I look back at my early reading, I can clearly recall sitting with horror books for kids and turning page after page, scared but intrigued to find out more about the evil creatures and how they could be stopped.
Horror books provided me with some of my most enjoyable reading experiences as a child, right next to magical stories and fairytales. But parents are increasingly becoming reluctant to let their children read horror books. They seem to think that kids might go through emotional and psychological disturbances by reading scary books, and so reading spooky stories will be harmful to them. While we will explain what is wrong with thinking this way, it is understandable.
As parents, your first instinct is to protect children from all kinds of harm in the world. Perhaps that is why being overprotective of kids is one of the most common pitfalls of parenting. While you may feel that giving scary books for reading to kids is a recipe for disaster, that is not the case. Let us see how reading scary books can actually benefit your children:
1. It helps children build resilience
Fear is a natural human emotion. Just as children need to learn to manage feelings of anger, happiness, disappointment, and jealousy, so they need to learn to recognize, understand, and regulate fear. If you never expose your kid to anything scary, whether that is a horror book or movie, your kid will be vastly underprepared to deal with real-life scary situations.
Encountering dreadful situations in books (such as the loss of a parent or sibling, being abandoned or unloved) helps children experience, through a character, their worst nightmares and come out of them triumphantly. It makes them resilient and gives them a sense of control, both of which are invaluable life-lessons.
2. It helps children process fear
Too much of anything is bad. If it is wrong to let kids watch top-rated age-inappropriate horror movies, it is also foolish to never let them read about monsters and evil creatures. When kids are exposed to age-appropriate horror books in their homes with parents close by, where they can always put the book down when the story gets too scary or come to their parents for consolation if they are really scared, it teaches them to deal with difficult feelings in a safe and secure environment.
Scary books aren’t really that scary because they give room for interpretation and leave the monsters to your imagination (contrary to movies, in which some very gruesome and scary details can be shown). Further, horror books almost always reveal the monsters, which helps abate half the fear away. They often show the villains defeated, which makes the kids feel empowered. And even if the story ends with the horror unresolved, there is nothing more soothing than knowing that it was just a fictional story.
3. It makes them excited to read books
Have you been worried about your child who just won’t develop an interest in reading? Perhaps that is because they think all the books you pick for them are too boring or childish. While there are many excellent children’s books out there, something that never fails to get a kid excited for reading is horror books.
With scary books, children get the feeling of doing something almost naughty and bad. They feel they are exploring new worlds that might not be meant for kids, which is why they love them. Hence, scary books can be the perfect way to get your kids into reading once and for all.
4. It actually teaches them invaluable life lessons
While most kids’ books teach the importance of family, friendship, hard work, and courage, scary books teach other invaluable lessons concerning personal safety. Some examples include not walking alone through secluded areas, not staying out alone without letting your parents know where you are, not talking for long with strangers or accepting sweets from them, and not inviting vampires into your house!
While it is usually hard to get kids to abide by these simple rules, horror stories can make the job easy for you.
5. It fosters their imagination
Diving deep into fantastical lands, filled with heroic characters that fight off 8-legged giant snakes, or going to the other side of the world to fetch the herb that can treat the emperor’s curse allows kids to use their imaginative abilities to the fullest extent. It helps them construct images of their choice, which are as scary as they can deal with, and provides a world that is scary yet under their control.
6. It is reassuring
And finally, scary books are reassuring. Closing the covers of a book, and coming back to a comfortable home and parents, relaxes kids. They can feel certain that the bad guy is confined within the book, and they are safe. Additionally, it gives them more appreciation for ordinary things in their lives.
While psychologists and child specialists agree that scary books are helpful in the normal development of kids, parents need to ensure the books children read are age-appropriate. Further, toddlers and preschoolers should not be read horror stories. This is because young children cannot yet tell the difference between fiction and real life, and scary stories can cause serious harm to their psyche. So, it is better to keep the scary stories only for the older kids and teenagers in your home.
Reading horror books can actually help children recognize and process the feeling of fear. It builds resilience in them and helps them tackle scary situations in real life more effectively. It also gets them excited to read and teaches them invaluable lessons. However, parents need to pick age-appropriate books for children.