Although retailers started preparing for Halloween in July, most of us don’t really start getting into the spooky season until well into the month of October. Maybe September! Some people hate a scary Halloween season; they prefer a cute version of spooky, like on the order of the Peanuts gang. (My personal favorite!) Other people are all in on screams and a scare factor.
At the Columbus (Ohio) Book Festival this past summer, several children’s authors held a panel discussion about writing horror books for children. Both speakers, Mar Romasco-Moore and Matt McCann, talked about how as children (and into adulthood), they have used writing and reading to process things that scare them through the safety of books. A reader who is scared while reading has the ultimate capacity to close the book if it feels overwhelming. They can stop the situation if and when it feels uncomfortable.
Scary books aren’t as visceral as a movie, which is another reason why some kids like them. Just as they control whether and when they open and close the book, they control what their imagination makes of the words.
Sometimes parents want to steer their children away from scary books because the parents don’t think these books are “quality” literature. But sometimes scary books (and any book, really) serves a purpose beyond just being quality literature. Books sometimes are what kids need to process feelings, including fear, and on a greater scale- the world around them. Books sometimes inspire kids because of the fear factor. How many authors who publish now were inspired by Stephen King or the Goosebumps series when they began reading these stories in school?
Scary books can also be just a fun, entertaining romp. Many people would not consider themselves horror devotees, but they can get on board with a Grady Hendrix novel or a Victor LaValle book once a year in October.
Have you ever read a scary book to work through a fear? Comment below an let us know how a scary read helped you.