Parent Guide to Book Genres: Horror, Thrillers, and Scary Stories

Hook your child on books with spooky tales.



Tales about UFOs and monsters might not be the best choice for bedtime (especially if your child is under 7 or 8 years old or is especially sensitive or fearful), but they can help your child learn to distinguish fantasy from reality and build his courage. Witnessing other kids face and conquer their fears will empower your own child to tackle his own. Not to mention that these books are known to hook even the most reluctant of readers.

Why They're Worthwhile

The world can be a terrifying place, and the best scary stories demonstrate how when kids use their brains and instincts they can keep safe. Horror books and thrillers also exercise the imagination, reinforce positive values, and offer the thrill of reading something that's a little subversive. Just be sure to choose age-appropriate titles and avoid ones about things your child is particularly terrified of until that fear is more manageable.

Talking the Talk

Discuss these books the same way you would any others — pay attention to ensuring your child is comfortable with the action. Ask her what she liked and disliked about the book, what she would have changed, and what she would have done if she were a character. Discuss the scary parts and what she liked or didn't about them. If your child is afraid after reading a scary book, or has a nightmare, keep talking about the difference between fantasy and reality, and bring out your usual bad-dream-busting strategies.

Beyond the Books

  • If your child is intrigued by a particular kind of monster or character, explore that creature further in other books. Since many books feature mythical creatures like Cyclops or Bigfoot, indulge his curiosity with further information or stories featuring these characters.
  • Ask your child to write a newspaper story and/or draw a picture that could accompany the book. How would she tell the tale? What would the creature look like?
  • Many popular series like Goosebumps have online Web sites and/or fan clubs. Encourage your child to further his interest online. (Just be sure to check out the sites first.)

Top Titles to Try

See our suggestions for younger readers (ages 7 to 10) and older ones. And if little brothers and sisters want in on the action? Pick up a Halloween-themed picture book.

Guides to Reading
Age 12
Age 11
Age 10
Dragons and Mythical Creatures
Aliens and UFOs
Ghosts, Monsters, Vampires, Witches
Courage, Bravery, Heroism