Today I read this article about depriving our children of scary stories (and potentially the opportunity for their development). A few years ago I went to see a theater production of Struwwelpeter. At thee time, I thought it was pretty disturbing that this was the kind of story that people used to tell to their children. But when I was studying to get my degree in information and library sciences (the new hip version of librarianship) my specialty was children and teen services and I was fortunate to take some wonderful classes about children's literature and my thinking has changed. Once upon a time "children's literature" didn't even exist. I swear to you I did not know this. The books that were intended for children often carried moral messages about how to act or not act and often relied on fear to motivate children to obey their parents, go to bed, eat their supper and the like. It's perhaps not surprising then that scary books for children were once quite common and were endorsed by parents!
Believe me, I get that there's a time and place for everything and that developmentally some children aren't ready to hear the gruesome details of the 11:00 news. However, when I look back on some of the books I loved most as a child there was a lot of violence and scary stuff in there. And I'm not just talking about picture books here, (although I too read Babar and In the Night Kitchen - stories referenced in the article). No, I mean that I had a children's Bible that I loved and it was full of some gruesome stories about the beheading of John the Baptist and the slaughter of the innocents and all kinds of stuff that at the time, didn't bother me in the least. Those were some of the most vibrant and interesting stories as far as I was concerned.
Peanut is really too young to be encountering too many books with scary themes these days; she's still reading board books with one word per page. But it could be an issue for us as she gets older and I found the article to be a great reminder to me that editing what she reads isn't really what I'm all about as a parent.
Are you selective about what scary things you read to your kids? Are some topics okay while others are just too intense or off-limits in your household?