I will begin by stating that I’m not saying your child should never read the books listed below, but some may give your child a bad message or be a bit too scary for them. While most of these books are classics and many of us have read them during our own childhood, parents should maybe rethink about allowing kids to read them until they’re a bit older.
1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
I love this book and always have, however, now that I’m older I can understand why this book has some controversy surrounding it. The Giving Tree is the story of a little boy and a female apple tree, who does anything and everything to make the little boy happy. When the little boy is younger, he’s content with just playing with the tree, but as he grows older, he begins asking more and more from the tree. He first picks the tree’s apples for money, then cuts off her branches for wood to build himself a house, and finally he cuts down her trunk to build himself a boat. The book states that all of this makes the tree happy, even when she’s nothing more than a stump.
Many look at this story as a heartfelt story about selflessness, but many also see it as a story about an abusive relationship. If you to decide to have your child read this, you might consider having a discussion regarding healthy relationships after.
2. Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz
The tales in Scary Stories are based on ghost stories and urban legends, and many parents over the years have tried to get all of the Scary Stories series banned, but the stories are still loved by many. These stories are great, creepy, and very interesting, however, they can be very scary for smaller children. I remember when I was in elementary school we were read a few of these during our Halloween party. The particular story that always comes to mind is called High Beams, a story about a woman driving home after a night out with friends when the car behind her consistently turns on his bright headlights. This freaks the lady out so much, she calls the police. Once they intervene, everyone realizes the man was trying to get her attention because he saw a man with a butcher knife rising up from her backseat.
I was terrified of this story and it still stays with me as an adult. When I’m driving at night, I catch myself looking in the backseat of my car before I get in, just to be sure. I would definitely suggest for parents to wait on reading Scary Stories until their child is well on up into their teens. Unless they’re okay with their kids having nightmares.
3. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
This is one of my favorite books from my childhood and I still read it to this day. The Rainbow Fish has shiny scales giving him the title of the most beautiful fish in the ocean. One day another fish asks him for one of his shiny scales, but he refuses, causing all the other fish to no longer play with him. Confused, he visits an octopus for advice, who tells him he needs to share his beauty with others to gain friends. Rainbow Fish ends up giving all but one shiny scale away and soon everyone becomes his friend.
Just like The Giving Tree, the story behind The Rainbow Fish can be interpreted several ways: some see it as a story about sharing with those around you; some say there is a potential socialist message; and some believe that it’s saying individuality is a bad thing and you must conform to society in order to have friends. I would suggest reading this book for yourself, then deciding from there if it’s one you’d like to pass onto your kiddos.
4. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
While I never read this as a child, I have read it before and found it a bit, strange. Love You Forever is the story of a mother who sneaks into her son’s bedroom at night and rocks him in her arms. While that may seem innocent enough, as the story goes on, we discover that the mother continues to do this, even once he’s an adult and living in his own house.
I understand that Munsch wrote the book after writing a song about his wife losing two children to stillborn births. Looking at it from that point of view, it is definitely a sweet story about the love a parent has for their child. However, it still gives off a creepy vibe with the mother basically breaking and entering into her son’s house at night. It also doesn’t help that the child in the story is quite a little terror and the mother doesn’t really care or do anything about it.
5. Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm
I absolutely without a doubt love fairy tales. There’s a reason why fairy tales are still around to this day and that’s because we keep passing them down to our kids and so on. However, many people confuse the Disney versions to the original versions. Almost every original fairy tale, even those by Hans Christian Andersen, have a much darker side than their Disney counterpart. Because of this, your child could potentially have a rough nights sleep if reading these before bedtime. There are plenty of fairy tale versions out there that are less dark and more kid friendly, so try those out before bringing out the original tales!
6. Because Your Daddy Loves You by Andrew Clements
While the thought behind this story was probably a good one, the message it might send to a young child makes it a bit questionable. Because Your Daddy Loves You tells the story of a father and his daughter. Basically, the story includes different situations that may come up between a father and his daughter such as: reading her favorite bedtime story, or carrying her upstairs for bed. It shows what the father could say to the child if he were an impatient, rude father, but since he loves her, he does just what the daughter asked.
The problem with this story is it can give the message that a parent only loves their child if they agree or allow them to do whatever they like, while also giving off the message that if a parent tells a child no, their parent must not love them. Which couldn’t be further from the truth.
7. Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
This book is all about how poor Alexander has a rough day and nothing can go right. He wakes up with gum in his hair, and trips on his skateboard along with other things. While this is a great book, the message it sends to kids isn’t a very good one. Most of the things that Alexander experiences that day are caused by him. If he hadn’t left his skateboard out, he wouldn’t have tripped over it; if he didn’t chewed gum in bed, he wouldn’t have woken up with it in his hair. See the pattern?
Instead of taking responsibility for his shortcomings, Alexander simply blames everyone else, which is not a good message for kids.
8. Lord Of The Flies by William Golding
With Lord of the Flies, a younger child most likely won’t be reading it, but it still can be quite an iffy book for a pre-teen to read. Lord Of The Flies tells the story of a group of schoolboys who end up getting shipwrecked on a remote tropical island. Everything starts off fine, they all work together to build shelter, make a fire, etc. Although, as time passes, the boys become bored and frustrated and refuse to tend to their duties. With the story of a “beast” roaming around the jungle, some of the boys begin killing some of the others as sacrifices to the beast. (Yes, that escalated very quickly).
While this novel is a classic and loved by many, it could potentially be too dark for younger teenagers.
9. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
This is one of those beloved books that has quite an out there and weird vibe that may not be good for younger kids. Charlie Bucket finds himself being stalked by an employee of Wonka, a childless, single man who runs a candy factory. In order to find an heir for his factory, Wonka holds a contest in which Charlie and four other children attend. The other children turn out to be “bad” and end up finding themselves turning purple and being sucked up into a tube.
While this is an excellent book, young kids may find some of the story to be a bit frightening.
10. Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Yet another classic novel that might be a bit too heavy for kids. Where The Red Fern Grows is a story about a boy who earns enough money to purchase two hunting dogs and how the three of them become a great hunting team earning the little boy quite a bit of money. However, one day while they were out hunting, one of the dogs is attacked by a mountain lion and ends up dying. Saddened by the lost of her companion, the other dog refuses to eat and eventually dies as well. Soon after, a red fern grows in between the two graves where the dogs are buried.
While this is a great story, young kids, even those early in their teens, may find the book quite upsetting. If you do let your child read this book, make sure you set aside some time to talk about the loss in the book in case they have a few questions.
Overall, every child out there is different and while one book may not affect one child it doesn’t mean it won’t affect another.
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