It’s that time of year again. The air is crisp, leaves are beginning to litter sidewalks and pumpkins are beginning to decorate front porches. Fall is finally here. This cool and cozy season always has me reaching for the candy corn and a creepy read. While I can’t get my candy cravings satisfied at the library, I can grab a book that is sure to make me jump.

While you might steer toward the adult fiction stacks to snag a spooky book, you can find me veering toward the youth collection. Many readers think that scary books are just for adults, but they are wrong. Nestled among the sweet and silly picture books that fill the shelves at the local public library are books that would make even the bravest grownups take pause. These spooky, creepy and just plain odd books are some of my favorite reads.

As caregivers, we try to shelter children from the most frightening things in the world, and introducing scary books to our littlest readers seems counterintuitive. Why would we purposely share these books with our precious kids? Because reading scary books with children can be a good thing. As much as we do not want our children to feel fear, it’s important for us to remember that there really are scary things in life. Experiencing fear in the safety of a book within a safe environment allows children to understand what scares them and also shows them how to ask for help in scary situations.

Frightening books teach children that it is OK to be scared, and that there is no shame in acknowledging fears. It is when we begin to identify our fears that we learn how to become brave and stand up against them, both real and imaginary. By reading scary books, children can identify with characters and learn new problem solving techniques and methods of conquering fears.

While scary picture books can teach our children about bravery, many books in this genre also delve into deeper issues, such as childhood trauma, abuse, death, anxiety, safety and loneliness. Often these books have a darker tone, which relays the difficult subject matter. In these picture books, we meet imperfect characters that must grow and maneuver through traumatic life events. Reading about and sharing the experiences of these characters teaches our children that they are not alone. Life can be frightening and not fair, but comfort can be found through reading these books.

So, as we begin our spookiest of seasons, we invite you to stop by the library and check out a scary picture book to share with your child. As you read these books together discuss the elements that make the book scary: dark illustrations, monsters, getting lost, strangers, death, overactive imagination, etc. And then discuss how the characters persevered through the scary parts: bravery, asking for help, healing, talking to a grown-up, etc. Show your littlest loved ones that being scared is OK and that you, as their grown-up, are there to help them navigate the scariest things in life.

To get you started on your journey into scary picture books we leave you with a little booklist. Check for these titles and more at your local public library. And don’t forget to keep an eye on the Latah County Library District events calendar for spooky fall programming including: Halloween-themed storytime and trick-or-treating at the Moscow Public Library, a witch hat display at the Potlatch Library, an adult creepy craft and popular TV series viewing program at the Moscow Public Library, and more.

Scary (and not-so-scary) picture books:

  • “Go Away, Big Green Monster” by Ed Emberly.
  • “Get Me Out of This Book: Rules and Tools for Being Brave” by Kalli Dakos.
  • “When Sadness is at Your Door” by Eva Eland.
  • “The Wolves in the Walls” by Neil Gaiman.
  • “The Dark” by Lemony Snicket.
  • “Leo, a Ghost Story” by Mac Barnett.
  • “I Will Not Eat You” by Adam Lehrhaupt.
  • “Ghost Cat” by Kevan Atteberry.
  • “Goldfish Ghost” by Lemony Snicket.
  • “I Don’t Like Koala” by Sean Ferrell.
  • “I Just Ate My Friend” by Heidi McKinnon.
  • “The Bad Seed” by John Jory.
  • “Creepy Pair of Underwear” and “Creepy Carrots” by Aaron Reynolds.
  • “Once I was Very Very Scared” by Chandra Ippen.

Stacie Echanove is the youth services manager for the Latah County Library District.

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