Children Need/Want Scary Stories

Banned and Challenged Books, Censorship, General Interest, Intellectual Freedom Issues

by Amy Steinbauer

There are a lot of reasons why I don’t want to reread the oft-challenged book “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” by Alvin Shwartz. It has nothing to do with it’s being challenged (although it was the number one challenged book for nine years), and more to do with me being a big baby with anything remotely scary. I remember reading these books as a kid; trying to keep up with my Goosebumps reading peers and camp go-ers who reveled in sharing scary stories. I remember them well… many of the stories scare me still to think about. But, it’s even scarier to think that challenges of this book are taking it out of the hands of children around the nation. All children should have the fundamental right to read. And with the popularity of TV and technology, we should be celebrating children who are continuing to reach into the stacks and find their connection to the world, even if it is a world of frights!

While I have tried to tuck away the ghoulish stories that I dutifully read as a child trying to fit in, working in a library, you will get the requests of tweens (who are at a scary age themselves, shifting from child to person) for the scary trilogy and delighting about finding them and diving in. I have children request these items all year round, and while I use this reader’s advisory interaction to tell them my own fears of the scary things, the children are empowered to be brave and empowered readers. They love to tell me how brave they are and how they aren’t scared! They share with me all kinds of stories about hearing weird noises at night or helping a younger sibling or how they didn’t get scared at a scary part of a movie! Not only do they get the book, but also they get something even a better, an adult that is active in their world and someone they connect to at the library. They come back and “torment” me with all the horrible things that they read.

Luckily for those children, and my much braver peers, these “Scary Stories” are being shown new light with an upcoming documentary about not only the story themselves but also the controversy surrounding them. The film is being crowd funded at the site: which despite a lofty goal, suggests that people have an invested interest in seeing these stories, their origins, and the controversy brought to the screen. This is an interesting point that relates back to the idea of censorship, just because one person doesn’t like a book or want to read it, doesn’t mean that the book should be banned for everyone! We are all different people and different books appeal in different ways to us. I don’t want to read these stories, but I know plenty of kids and adults that delight in reading creepy stories, and these are the books for them!

For more information on the film project, see this site:

Scary Stories: A Documentary


Amy Steinbauer is the Early Childhood Outreach Library at the Beaumont Library District in Southern CA. She drives a bookmobile and specializes in outreach and early literacy! She has her MLISc from University of Hawaii, and a B.A. in English from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. She won the 2015 Conable Scholarship to attend ALA Annual in San Francisco, and will be presenting at the 2016 Annual conference in Orlando, FL. She loves professional development, and is currently serving as a Board Member at Large for the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), is on ALA’s Public Awareness Committee, and on the SASCO Committee through NMRT. She loves mermaids, and advocating for libraries, and will one day combine them both to take over the world! Until then, follow her on twitter @merbrarian.

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