"Do you have any scary books?"
It’s an ever-popular question we hear from kids. But what makes scary stories so fascinating to children?
Horror written for kids lets them experience fear with a safety net, allowing for practice with intense emotions at minimal risk. Suspenseful plots and quick pacing also make children’s horror a hit with young readers—including kids who may not think of themselves as book lovers.
For our children’s horror picks and to discover what makes a great scary story for kids, read on...if you dare!
4 features of terrific scary stories for kids:
1. Atmospheric art
Blacks, whites, and grays remind us of deep shadows when the sun goes down. What's hiding in the dark? A spooky doll? A creepy pair of underwear? Grayscale and other muted color palettes build an uneasy atmosphere that enrich the sense of foreboding.
2. What's familiar is unfamiliar
Middle school cafeterias aren’t renowned for their cleanliness, and sometimes a floor stain is just a stain. But sometimes it's a ravenous mouth, transporting you to who-knows-where. A good scary story creeps out readers with the feeling that everything dependable is out of whack.
3. Developmentally responsive chills
What's scary to a preschooler? Carrot sticks out for revenge. Crayons and underpants that come to life, and not in a good way. Horror for older readers begins to explore more complex themes like grief, divorce, and racism. The horror genre shows up in nearly every children’s format, adapted to appropriately reflect stages of childhood development.
5. Short chapters, short stories
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the classic book of terrifying tales referenced by older kids. Many excellent short story collections have since been published for kids. These bitesize tales create an accessible reading experience to kids with varying degrees of literacy, delivering a satisfying beginning, middle, and end in just a few pages.