Are Scary Books Good for Children?

Some books are scarier than others. Even in the world of children’s literature there are some frightening characters. Think of the giants in The BFG or the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are. For the children in those books, there were some serious threats of being eaten. As a parent, do you want to expose your kids to these kinds of characters?

A survey conducted by the British online bookseller The Book People has shown that 1/3 of parents keep clear of scary books for their kids. When answering questions about the bad characters in books, “78% said that baddies helped children ‘differentiate between good and evil.’” Half claimed that it also helped children “learn to cope with difficult situations.”

Granted these answers may be a little skewed because we can never really know how a human mind reacts to the material it absorbs. At first, the idea of parents keeping celebrated books away from their children strikes us as misguided, but when you take a closer look at some of the characters they are afraid of, the idea seems more palpable.

The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz

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The original depiction of the Wicked Witch was a one-eyed hag type character with pigtails. Her main power was the ability to control creatures. She had wolves, bees, crows, and of course the winged monkeys. In the book she enslaves Dorothy and attempts to starve the Cowardly Lion to death. Probably the worst aspect of the literary witch was her tendency to beat Dorothy’s dog Toto with an umbrella.

The Big Bad Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood


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The Big Bad Wolf represents a scary concept. The Wolf is a smooth talking swindler that could convince your own grandmother to willingly be eaten whole. While disguised as somebody you love, he will then try his same tricks of seduction on you. Perhaps parents find this so scary, because they are afraid of their children looking twice at them, after all they could be the Big Bad Wolf in disguise!

Cruella de Vil from The Hundred and One Dalmatians

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Cruella is certainly a scary figure. Her passion is capturing dogs and skinning them for their fur. The worst part is she focuses on puppies because that is when their fur is the softest! I am sure no parent wants their kid to know that such practices exist at such a young age.

At the end of the day it is up to the parents to choose what their kid is exposed to. But at the same time it seems naïve to think that kids are not going to be exposed to bad things in life. Having the opportunity to see evil in books and stories may be a gentle first step into the craziness of the real world. If you had a child, would you let them read about these characters?

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