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How to Read Scary Books to Kids

Posted October 17, 2007
Updated October 20, 2007

Are Halloween books OK to read to children?

Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, author of "Einstein Never Used Flash Cards" and a professor at the University of Delaware offers some advice:

Can children be adversely affected by Halloween images in books?

"Children can't tell the difference between appearance and reality until they're about 5. So you have to be careful, and you have to be your child's censor. You can't wait for them to tell you that they're frightened or scared."

What kinds of books are appropriate to choose?

"The book has to be fun, not menacing or scary. Use words like: 'It's just pretend, it's make believe.' You know, they're going to see these images no matter what. It's not like you can totally shield them from Halloween. The easiest thing to do is to take off the mask and show the child that it's make-believe."

Any tips on determining what's OK to expose them to?

"You've got to be really attuned to what's developmentally appropriate for your kid. The National Association for the Education of Young Children has a section on its Web site that defines developmentally appropriate." (That site: http://www.naeyc.org/about/positions/daptoc.asp ).

Is there a "best" way to go about reading Halloween books to younger children?

"You do want to make these things seem like fun: If you could show the books where there are fun-looking pumpkins, and the kids are in mask and then out of the mask, and they're having a good time, and they're getting candy ... then you reinforce the associations of fun with Halloween."

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