My kids love scary stories, even at bedtime! They’re in first and second grade, so while we’re still very mindful about what’s read to them before bed, they love spooky books. Both my husband and I grew up with the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. If you’ve been on my site, you’ll quickly realize we love Halloween just a bit. While our kids love spooky books, we didn’t want to traumatize them with the Scary Stories series, as it’s for far older kids.
Best Spooky Bedtime Books for Kids Who Love Scary Stories
We always prioritize reading to the kids before bed, so we’ve accumulated quite a few kids’ horror books. Scouring Amazon and the Scholastic book order for frightening fare is just second nature.
The following are our favorite spooky bedtime books for kids who love scary stories but who are too young for actual scary stories. These books are constantly repeated at bedtime, with worn covers and dog-eared pages. I’m confident your children will enjoy these spooky bedtime books.
Scary Books for Younger Kids
When Halloween starts to creep around, our nighttime book schedule changes to a spooky theme. Our favorites from when the kids were younger are still in rotation today. These are fun books with just a tinge of spookiness that even littles can enjoy.
The Scary Book by Joanna Cole
There is another book called “The Scary Book,” but it’s not this one. Admittedly, this is an older title with no newer printings, but you can still find it online.
The stories are not significantly scary – many are cute, and these are classics you probably read as a kid. Regardless, they still hold up, and your kids will love them, too.
We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt
Who doesn’t love a ghost hunt? Structured like the classic “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” book (and others like it), this is a fun, atmospheric Halloween story. The pictures are big, beautiful, and equally fun for preschool and middle school kids.
The sentence structure’s repetitive nature is good for early readers, too. My daughter loved this book when she was in kindergarten, as it gave her a fun way to practice reading.
Ghosts in the House!
With big, cute pictures and bright black-and-orange coloring, this was a favorite when our kids were younger. A young witch has a ghost problem and, instead of being scared, solves it herself. It’s perfectly Halloween-themed, cute, and quite a bit of fun.
The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything
This one is a classic – if you’re around my age, it was probably a library favorite. I remember having a copy that had the hardcover hanging off, but I still made it work. I feel sure that your children will love it as much as mine do (and as much as I did!) She swallowed a fly, some coal, and many other things, so it should be evident that this little old lady isn’t afraid of anything. In this book, she proves it by taking a spooky walk through the autumn woods; a great addition to any “Little Old Lady” collection, but perfect for the spookiest time of year as well.
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
We love this book because it’s perfect for two seasons – we read it as Halloween approaches and again during Hanukkah and Christmas. It’s got the perfect mix of a compelling story and goblins! The illustrations are some of my daughter’s favorites, as they’re not the cartoony type you normally see in children’s books.
Scary Books for Reading Along
What follows should be perfect if you’re looking for creepy books for first graders or those learning to follow along. They’re spooky but not so, matching early reading development perfectly. Some of these were my kids’ first stories they read themselves (we’re a spooky family, what can I say?)
Short Scary Stories to Read Together
These stories are just creepy and designed to be read by mom or dad. They’re also wonderfully illustrated, encouraging early readers to recognize words and sounds. Older kids will be able to read these stories with little difficulty and without scaring themselves too much (just a bit!)
I love the illustrations on this one, probably because I grew up with Nightmare Before Christmas. The story is cute and highly atmospheric to Halloween; my kids love it. Finnegan, the skeleton, travels across the land with his spoon and bowl, always looking for something new and delicious to eat, which leads him to a new place for a Halloween feast. You and your kids will love this spooky but sweet story.
Creepy Pair of Underwear
Want to spook your six and seven-year-olds and make them laugh? Read a book about creepy, glow-in-the-dark undies. They will have a great time with the Halloween fun and underwear-centric jokes in this classic. This is a perfect choice if you’re looking for a book with humor, Halloween spirit, and bunnies (with creepy undies).
Ten Timid Ghosts
Like other classic children’s books, this one follows a numeric formula that makes it an easier read for kids. As the witch takes over the ghosts’ house, she gets increasingly crafty, trying to scare them away. But after a while, they realize it’s up to them to save Halloween and their home. It’s fun and cute, and your kids will have a blast noticing all the small, hidden details in every picture.
Room on the Broom
This is probably my daughter’s favorite book of all time and close to one of mine! If you’ve not read this book, it’s an ABSOLUTE MUST BUY…like right now. Stop reading and just get it. While it’s not strictly a Halloween book, it has some spooky-season themes that are fun. The rhyming scheme is easy to learn and helps foster reading ability, and the illustrations are timelessly wonderful. It’s a truly fun book that’s sure to become a family favorite.
Last Halloween, the witch planted a pumpkin to make a pumpkin pie, but now it’s enormous, and she can’t move it. My son loves how this story builds on the input of each spooky character trying to help the witch resolve her pumpkin problem. The illustrations and story are both classics, and I love this book just as much now as I did as a child. I also really love the theme of teamwork throughout!
Scary Stories for Second Graders
These books are getting into more frightening territory. The happy witches and smiling pumpkins are gone, replaced by actual horror and longer stories. You might remember Some of these from childhood, and others are newer ones we’ve discovered recently. Regardless, these scary books are perfect for second graders and older kids reading independently.
Of course, they might want to read them with you, too, though they may not admit it.
In a Dark, Dark Room
One of the best spooky story anthologies, In a Dark, Dark Room, was one of my favorites as a kid. You probably remember the story of the girl with the green ribbon around her neck; it’s classic kid reading material. That story and many others sit in this book to tingle your spine and make you shiver. Be sure to come back next Halloween. I’m planning the green ribbon costume to fit my frugal Halloween needs.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
You surely thought these stories would be on this list, didn’t you? The illustrations alone evoke nightmares in even the bravest of souls. The boxed set comes with all three spine-chilling books, which is great because you’ll want to go to the next immediately once you finish one. These books are the foundation of scary childhood literature.
Took: A Ghost Story
This is easily one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read; it’s atmospheric, and the story builds tension masterfully. My second grader can read it quite easily on his own, too, which makes it a tremendous read-alone book that won’t freak them out too much. If your child loves scary stories and is good at reading alone, Took is an excellent choice.
Haunted Kids: True Ghost Stories
I have to preface this entry by saying this suggestion comes from my husband, who said this book terrified him as a child. The fact that the stories are “true” adds a layer of “this could happen to me,” making things even spookier. Since it’s told from the point of view of the kids who experienced the hauntings, it makes them relatable and perhaps more believable.
Out to Get You
I love these story collections, but unfortunately, many of the ones in the last 10 years or so try too hard to be Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Not so, with this one; Out to Get You has unique, wonderful, spooky stories that thrill. I highly recommend this scary book for middle-schoolers to read alone, but it’s also fun to read along with your kids.
Scary Stories Are a Childhood Favorite
Everyone loves to be scared – it’s a wonderful little thrill. Kids, in particular, seem to relish being spooked when they know they’re safe. These are some of my favorite scary stories for kids, and while it’s not an exhaustive list, I think you and your children will be pleasantly surprised and scared.
Do you have a favorite spooky bedtime book that you love that I missed? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
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Amy Ives is a vibrant and resourceful writer known for her engaging home hacks, travel insights, and money-saving tips. With a knack for turning everyday challenges into fun, practical solutions, Amy's articles are a go-to for readers seeking clever tricks and life-enhancing advice.