Halloween provides a great opportunity to test your child's comfort zone just a little bit. You certainly don't want to choose books that will terrify and traumatize your tot, but you can have a little bit of fun getting spooked together. The key is to take the time to talk about what you're reading, what's real and what isn't, and how it makes you feel.
If you're looking for a book to help spark that conversation with the "read to me" set, try Scary, Scary Halloween by Eve Bunting. The delightfully scary pictures of skeletons and witches are, upon closer inspection, children dressed up for trick-or-treating. This is a great way to prepare your young child for what he'll see and experience on Halloween.
Bunting's In the Haunted House gives slightly older kindergartners a chance to explore their own fears, at an age where they feel like they should be brave enough to handle anything.
Early elementary students will enjoy Patricia Coombs' Dorrie series about a young witch who tries to be good but usually winds up in some sort of trouble. The beautifully illustrated books may be hard to find, but they're worth the effort -- the stories are a fun spin on witches and other spooky things. These are books that you can read together with your child, but she won't be too scared to re-read them on her own, even at night.
When it comes to scary stories, late elementary school students are a tough audience. You'll have to carefully gauge your child's readiness for scary material--while many can handle it on their own at this age, there are plenty of kids who can't. Deborah and James Howe's classic Bunnicula is a fun read for this age, and a reminder that what seems scary may be perfectly normal. Bonus: check out the audiobook version read by Victor Garber.
If your child scoffs at Bunnicula and clamors for something scarier, then offer him The Best Ghost Stories Ever, edited by Christopher Krovatin and featuring stories from Edgar Allen Poe, Washington Irving, and other great writers.
Tweens may enjoy Creepy Campfire Tales Vol. One: Halloween Camp Out by James D. Adams. Warning: you might want to read this one first for yourself to make sure it won't be too much for your child to handle. If you're planning a Halloween party for your tween, or an October hayride for a group of kids, the stories in this book lend themselves to easy retelling. Read it ahead of time and pick a favorite or two to tell the night of the event.
Scary stories are conducive to family reading time. Consider making an evening event, complete with a fire and a flashlight, and take turns reading aloud. If your kids are too cool to read with you, let them take the books on their own -- but don't be surprised if they eventually make their way back to the family room. Scary stories, after all, don't always need to be read alone in the dark.
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