Are Children’s Books Too Dark For Children?

Front Cover of The Hunger GamesAfter a quick perusal through popular children’s literature, you, as a parent, may come to the conclusion that children’s books are too dark for children.  Case in point—The Hunger Games, an extremely popular children’s series that is marketed to children aged twelve and up, involves a Gladiatorial-style game in which the last child left standing wins.  Harry Potter features abusive guardians, wizards who enjoy torturing each other, and an evil wizard that keeps attempting to kill Harry, a wizard that Harry himself must kill in order to protect the rest of the world.  Matilda features an evil headmistress who routinely throws children in a small locker, the inside of which is coated in bits of broken glass.  James and the Giant Peach has two abusive aunts who are then crushed.  Even the nursery rhyme, The Three Blind Mice, talks of the mice’s tails being cut off by a carving knife.

While parents should be careful to ensure that their children only read books that they are old enough to handle, I don’t think that parents should be concerned about possibly scarring their thirteen year-old child for life by giving her a copy of The Hunger Games for Christmas.  Children arFront Cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallowse resilient and often have an interest in the macabre.  Books about Sue Anne’s nice, nice day in which she is given a free candy by the grocer at the corner store and takes her happy puppy for a walk are also unbelievably boring.  Children usually have a highly developed sense of right and wrong, and enjoy seeing good people succeed while the villains are defeated and punished.

Part of growing up is learning about moral ambiguity, as well as situations in which clashing people have good intentions and yet still violently disagree.  Books can be a good precursor to situations that your children will themselves someday have to deal with.  As long as you, the parent, are careful about what books you do or do not allow your child to read, there is no reason to be concerned about the dark themes and plots that abound in children’s literature.


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