Reading Wednesdays is back just in time for Halloween! Instead of doing a reading list about books with monsters and witches as main characters like last year, I asked media specialist Lauren Bercuson of Happily Ever Elephants to put together a list of children’s books about conquering specific fears.
Whether your kid has a fear of the ocean (like me), a fear of making mistakes (like Mazzy) or a fear of the dark (like Harlow), here is a list of 12 books that can hopefully address their issue head on.
Fear of Monsters:
By Amanda Noll and illustrated by Howard McWilliam
Have a child that is asking you to check just one more time to make absolutely certain there is nothing in his closet or under his bed before you leave his room at bedtime? Then you need this book, a witty, imaginative story that will undoubtedly turn the tables on your kids’ fear of monsters with a story that will make them laugh and breathe a sigh of relief. When Ethan looks under his bed to check on his monster, Gabe, Ethan finds a note from Gabe instead. What does it say? Gabe has gone fishing and will be back in a week! How on earth will Ethan get to bed without his monster’s heavy breathing lulling him to sleep? This book is guaranteed to get your kids laughing about ogres and beasts, rather than fearing them.
Fear of the Dark:
By Emma Yarlett
This book has been on heavy rotation in our house for years, and it has become our favorite book to tackle fear of the dark. Yarlett takes darkness and personifies it in the friendliest way possible. She gives darkness a cuddly body, a shy smile and a gentle hand to hold. When the main character explores night with his new friend, scary noises become familiar and the unknown expanse of darkness isn’t nearly as frightening as it once seemed. Pair this concept with adorable foldouts and you can see why we think this story leads the pack when it comes to the best books for children who fear the dark.
Fear of Heights:
By Gaia Cornwall
This book explores a fear of heights and the courage one boy must find within himself to take a leap — off the high diving board at the community pool, that is! Jabari’s fear of heights is handled with authenticity and tenderness. Kids see their own stalling techniques mirrored in Jabari’s actions, such as allowing other children to pass him in line so they can climb up the tall ladder before him, and the excuses he comes up with up to delay his turn even more. Add to this Jabari’s father who patiently encourages him despite his fears, and you have a winning formula – a picture book you will turn to over and over again.
Fear of Failure:
By Peter H. Reynolds
If only we could all think “ish-ly”! I love the way this book explores that there is no “right” way to create. Ramon loves to draw, but after his brother makes fun of what he sees in Ramon’s creations, Ramon hesitates at every turn. This causes Ramon to have a serious crisis in confidence, and a hobby he once loved becomes joyless. When Ramon learns his little sister has created a gallery of all of his artwork, she helps him find beauty in recognizing that his drawings do not need to be perfect replicas of real objects. This insightful story helps children realize it is ok for art to look “fish-ish” or “sun-ish,” thus providing our kids just the encouragement they need to find freedom in creation.
Fear of Thunder:
By Patricia Polacco
I am in love with this book, to the point that it’s tenderness makes my eyes well everytime I read it. This is the story of a young girl who lives on a farm with her grandma, and as a storm approaches and thunder rumbles, the girl is so scared she hides under a bed. Leave it to Grandma to turn the storm into an adventure. The bad weather is nothing to worry about – instead, the clock is ticking for them to get a Thunder Cake into the oven before the storm arrives! This is a warm and wonderful tale, depicting one grandparent’s brilliant method to inspire adventure, distraction, and even fun, all in the face of her granddaughter’s biggest fear.
Fear of Being Different:
By Emily Gravett
Staying on top of the trends, having the right clothes, gadgets, accessories and things, is a major concern when children are little. How do we celebrate uniqueness? This is an excellent choice if you are looking for a story to remind your little ones how awesome it is to have distinguishing physical character traits. Instead of trying to cover up the things that make us unique with the latest trends, there is beauty to be found in individuality and so much joy to be had when we learn to value the characteristics that make us special, just like Harbet does in this story. It is so profound when kids discover that being different is much cooler than following the pack!
Fear of the Ocean:
By Carolyn Crimi
If you have a kid who makes up excuse after excuse to justify her fears, this is the book for you. Poor Sukie is having a rough day at the beach. She’s scared of the ocean because she’s just a small dog and the waves are really big and the sand is really sandy and she might get a shell up her nose and, most importantly, there might be lobsters. One day though, Sukie has to learn the hard way whether she has what it takes to face her fears and save her beloved monkey from the depths of the ocean’s floor. Will you be brave in the face of danger, too?
Fear of Dogs:
By Kate Berube
This story finds its way onto so many of my book lists, that’s how much we love it! Every day when Hannah gets to her bus stop after school, Violet P.’s mom is waiting for the children with their dog, Sugar. And every day, Hannah quietly refuses to pet the dog. Why? She’s terrified, of course. So when Sugar goes missing one day, and Hannah is the one to find the poor pup stuck in the bushes, Hannah must find the courage to bring Sugar home. Berube’s portrayal of Hannah and Sugar’s interaction is fantastic. She conveys Hannah’s fear, and eventual courage, with a light but powerful touch, making the situation so realistic and relatable that we bring this scene up whenever someone in my family is feeling scared. Every time my big one has to bring his favorite book to school (or write about it, or talk about it), Hannah and Sugar is no doubt his very top choice.
Fear of Making Mistakes:
By Corinna Luyken
If you have a child that is a perfectionist, whether it comes to school or hobbies or creativity, this book is a must! The Book of Mistakes is a stunner, illuminating the inherent beauty that underlies every misstep we make. Readers follow Luyken on a creative journey, one that perfectly depicts how every “mistake” she makes actually becomes an integral part of her illustrative process. An “oh no” can become an “oh wow!” with just a bit of endurance and a whole lot of heart and imagination.
Fear of Getting Up on Stage:
By Sam Zuppardi
If your child has a fear of getting up on stage, whether to perform in a recital or give a class presentation, this is a must for your shelves. Jack loves playing his trumpet and can’t wait for his first concert. Until, that is, the morning of that first show when he finds he has a big worry following him everywhere. He tries to play his trumpet to make the worry go away, but it only makes things worse. What happens if he makes a mistake when he is on stage? When he finally shares his worry with his mom and realizes performing is more about having fun and sharing what you love with people who love you, he finds the courage to continue. And he also finds that he’s not alone – his friends have worries of their own.
Fear of Everything:
By Melanie Watt
Scaredy Squirrel is so scared of his surroundings, he won’t ever leave his tree! He has back up plans and contingency plans and a whole system set up to deal with anything that goes amiss. But what happens when his worst fears actually come to be, and he finds himself plummeting from his tree to the ground below? This is such a fabulous book to help kids recognize that they will never be able to control the world all around them, but if they learn to let go a little bit, they may find a whole lot of fun in their surroundings. Even though a new experience is daunting at first, it will usually create a lot more joy than fear!
Fear of Growing Up:
By Loren Long
This is a classic in the making, and one of the most beloved stories in our home. Growing up is daunting. Facing change is downright frightening, and sometimes, we hold tight to the present in order to resist the future. But what happens when the world is changing all around us, our friends are leaving us behind, and we are not thriving or growing? This is a beautiful, tender story about one little tree’s difficult journey and the reward he finds when he ultimately feels safe enough to let go. I dare any parent to read this without crying!
Are you or your kids scared of something specific? Tell me about it below!