One Key to Helping Kids Choose Good Books

Hello fellow parents,

How can we help our kids learn to choose good books? 

My friend Nichole and I had a conversation about this on Facebook the other day, and I wanted to let you in on it (with her permission of course). 

I asked, "How can I help you in your life . . . as it relates to books or otherwise?" and "What are your bookish problems?"

Nichole Currently, I have a son that is interested in scary stories but still has nightmares. My bookish problems are finding a "spooky" genre that isn't really spooky. Or finding ways to broaden the 8 year old's interests. Most books he's interested in are at an older reading level. Diary of a Wimpy Kid - not a fan of the way that little kid talks and behaves. Goosebumps - not appropriate (in my opinion) for my son. Scary stories? They just feel Satanic in nature and I don't know how to break him away from all of that. This is probably entirely too personal and definitely needs to be prayed long and hard about. But he keeps coming home with this books from school library and it's driving me crazy!
[. . .]

February 1 at 11:04pm
Alysa Stewart ooh, that is super good food for thought! I'm going to be thinking about your situation for sure! First thoughts: I like the idea of expanding his interests. It seems like it would work better than offering non-scary books or telling him to stop. What about expanding into biology (blood, guts, gore, human body/how it works) and/or into historical (instead of ghost stories, true stories from the past) or maybe he's drawn to [the genre] because many spooky stories reference real life heavily, but then throw in a surprise. So maybe contemporary realistic fiction. Maybe he likes scary stories because they have lots of foreshadowing and suspense --> like fairy tales. I always think that if you can't stop a kid from reading scary stories you can point them to Poe, because at least then they're reading classics. hahaha! What do you think? Why do you think he likes them?
LikeReply1February 1 at 11:37pm
Nichole  I love your ideas!!! I think he could get into fairy tales if I approach them right. Real fairy tales, though, not the Disney versions. I'll have to send you a private message about the other stuff. I'd love your input. You are most definitely my go-to book resource! I just love your posts and your blog!
UnlikeReply1February 2 at 9:46am

So this was a little over a week ago, and I messaged Nichole to see how it was going and if there was anything else I could do to help. 
  • Nichole Christensen

    Yes, absolutely [you can share our conversation on Everead]! It's actually going really well. I did what you suggested and started asking him about other things that might give him the thrill or the adrenaline or whatever it was that the scary stories were giving him, and he's currently really liking the crocodile hunter (he loves the show, but he read a book about him first). He's brought home some really great choices from library at school. He's also really liking the "I Survived" series. And he's super into WWII and history, so we're trying to explore that genre as well.

    He still struggles with friends talking about scary stories and movies and things... But I think he realizes he can be interested in other things and still get that same feeling as he is reading. Just not in a negative way.
  • Alysa Stewart
    Alysa Stewart

    Cool! Benjamin (who is 7) brought home one of the I Survived books from the library at school today.

    Well that's awesome! And wow that was quick! haha

    I guess it's still ongoing, a bit, as you said, friends at school haven't changed their tastes and conversations yet.
  • Nichole Christensen

    I was preparing for a MUCH longer and more difficult battle. But it really worked out on his end. At least in our house. I think the friends thing is going to always be that way -- his standards are different and he's going to run into that his whole life. But he's learning how to change the subject and stand a little more stronger on his own two feet.
  • Alysa Stewart
    Alysa Stewart

    Awesome! How are the nightmares? Any better, or don't know yet? Were nightmares an occasional problem, or a regular thing?
  • Nichole Christensen

    They come and go... He's always had them, but they've become less frequent as he's gotten older. However, if he was exposed to something (sometimes the kids in computers class get on iTunes on the iPads even though they're not supposed to, and kids will show him movie trailers that scare him), he usually has a nightmare.

Talking with kids openly about making good book choices is very important. I would even say it is critically important. I talked about it in a previous post as well. 

I think talking with kids about their reading is part of being a thoughtful, intentional parent. Isn't it funny how sometimes we expect something to be a big battle with our kids, but it turns out they welcome our insight? I think one of the keys to helping kids respond well is to demonstrate love and respect through our words and actions. When kids (or adults!) know that you love them and have their best interests at heart, they find it easier to take advice.

If you think this post could be helpful to someone, please share it on Facebook (where it all started) or some other way. Your sharing might be the way another parent finds it!

If you have thoughts to share or questions, leave a comment, below. Talk to you soon. 

As of a few days ago, this blog now has a Facebook page! Head over and hit "Like" so that you can see updates on Facebook at your convenience. 


  1. This just in from Facebook: A friend of mine wrote to caution parents against sending their kids the message that "everything scary is from Satan and you're not allowed to watch it." I agree that this would be using a machete when a scalpel would do.

    My friend continues, "Scary media exist because it can be fun to be scared. Like all fun, it is optional. Some people don't like it, and that's okay. Telling kids that scary things are "strange optional fun" empowers them to make their own choices responsibly. It also helps them respond appropriately if they see something scarier than they like. "That wasn't a fun game" => discarded."

    I like that description of scary entertainment as "strange, optional fun." Scary stuff isn't usually to my taste, but sometimes I quite enjoy it. I do think that parents of young children should help them discard entertainments or other influences that are harming their health.

    I think that teaching kids to say "that wasn't fun" or "this isn't getting me the results I want" is very empowering.

    1. I totally agree. You have to know your kid. In our situation, they scary stories were causing nightmares and overall feelings of uneasiness and fear in our home. So those types of scary stories needed to stop. However, the adrenaline and fun type of scary is something that draws my 8 year old. We are finding that he can get that type of entertainment from avenues that don't cause problems with nightmares. There are some things that I feel ARE Satanic and it's unfortunate that kids can be exposed to those things so early in life. But just like all things, we can't slap a label on something immediately.


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