My kids absolutely 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 at all, you’ll quickly realize we love Halloween just a wee bit. While our kids love spooky books too, 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 make it a priority to read to the kids before bed, and so we’ve accumulated quite a few kids’ horror books. Scouring both 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 are the books that are on constant repeat at bedtime, with the worn covers and dog-eared pages. I’m certain your own children will enjoy these spooky bedtime books.
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Scary books for younger kids
When Halloween starts to creep around, our nighttime book schedule changes to a spooky theme. Some of 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 out there also called “The Scary Book” but it’s not this one. Admittedly, this is an older title that doesn’t appear to have any newer printings, but you can still find it online.
The stories are not significantly scary – many are cute actually, 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 kids in preschool into middle school.
The repetitive nature of the sentence structure is really good for early readers, too. My daughter loved this book when she was in kindergarten, as it gave her a fun way to practice her 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 certain that your children will love it as much as mine do (and as much as I did, too!) She swallowed a fly, and some coal, and a ton of other things, so it should be obvious 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, well, goblins! The illustrations are some of my daughter’s favorites, as they’re not the cartoony type that you normally see in children’s books.
Scary books for reading along
If you’re looking for creepy books for first graders, or those who are learning to follow along, what follows should be perfect. They’re spooky but not so, and they match early reading development perfectly. Some of these were my kids’ first stories they read by themselves (we’re a spooky family, what can I say?)
Short Scary Stories To Read Together
These stories are just perfectly creepy and designed to be read with mom or dad. They’re wonderfully illustrated as well, and encourage recognition of words and sounds for early readers. Older kids, they’ll 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 extremely atmospheric for 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’re going to have a great time with the Halloween fun and underwear-centric jokes in this classic. If you’re looking for a book with humor, Halloween spirit, and bunnies (with creepy undies), this is a perfect choice.
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, 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’s got some spooky-season themes that are a ton of fun. The rhyming scheme is easy to learn and helps foster reading ability as well 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 when I was 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. Some of these you might remember from your childhood, and others are newer ones we’ve discovered recently. Regardless, these scary books are perfect for second graders and older kids who are reading on their own.
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 that exist, 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 along with many others sits in this book to tingle your spine and make you shiver. Be sure to come back next Halloween, as I’m definitely planning the green ribbon costume to fit my frugal Halloween needs.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
You surely thought these stories were going to be on this list, didn’t you? The illustrations alone are enough to evoke nightmares in even the bravest of souls. The boxed set comes with all three spine-chilling books, which is great because once you finish one, you’ll want to go to the next immediately. 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 great 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 a great 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” which makes 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, a lot 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 by themselves, 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!