I’m not even going to lie—I’m an adult with a child of my own and am still a little afraid of the dark. I contribute my fear to my overwhelmingly large imagination because the minute the lights go out, I’m immediately thinking of all the horrible things that could be lurking behind a chair in my room. Plus, have you ever tried to get up at 3 a.m. to take care of a crying baby in the pitch black? It can be terrifying.
My daughter isn’t even two yet, so she has no idea what it means to be afraid of the dark. In fact, I bought her a night light and she sleeps better without it. (I’ll just borrow this for my own room then, kiddo.) But I know that once she has an imagination, one that can consume her little mind until she’s panicked at the thought of the lights going out, she may need some help not being afraid of the dark. A flashlight placed near the bed is always a good start, but so are books. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to read a book just to get my mind to calm down and focus on something else (I do not recommend Stephen King), and as much as my daughter loves books, I’m sure she’ll be the same way.
But reading before bed to a kid who’s afraid of the dark means choosing a book that’s going to give them some reassurance and relief, not one that will put more questions in their head. Here are seven picture books that can help both of you get some easy sleep.
There’s a Nightmare in My Closet, by Mercer Mayer
I remember this story so well from my own childhood, and can’t wait to add it to my daughter’s collection. A story that personifies our fears into real things with emotions of their own, it’s silly, even a little absurd, but it definitely does the trick when it comes to banishing thoughts of the boogeyman.
No Such Thing, by Jackie French Koller, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
For the child that’s afraid of a monster, this sweet book is the perfect way to put them at ease. In the story, the monster under the bed is just as terrified of the boy on top of the bed, and the two of them have to face their fears together. It’s funny and cute, and your child will be reassured about monsters when they realize that, even if they do exist, they’re just as scared of kids as kids are of monsters.
Orion and the Dark, by Emma Yarlett
Little Orion is scared of a lot of things, but the dark is his biggest fear. He has tried literally everything he can think of to be brave and make his anxieties disappear, but it’s a no go. So how does he overcome it? The Dark decides to take him on an adventure! With gorgeous illustrations and beautiful storytelling, this story makes the Dark seem less scary and more magical.
Touch the Brightest Star, by Christie Matheson
For some children, the night is scary simply because they don’t know much about it. That’s why this delightful story is perfect for those kiddos. An interactive story, this book is full of all the things that happen at night, including waving goodbye to the sun, seeing an owl, and making a wish on a star. When your child learns about all of the magic that happens at night, it may not seem as frightening.
I Need My Monster, by Amanda Knoll, illustrated by Howard William
Like many children, I believed in monsters, and there was nothing that was going to change my mind. The trick for children like me, is to tell them about the wonderfully good monsters there are, and to appeal to the side of them that loves all creatures and imagination. That’s exactly the premise of this book: When little Ethan’s monster leaves a note under the bed saying he’s gone for a week, Ethan is worried he won’t be able to get to sleep without him and sets off to find a substitute. Super silly, and totally adorable for your little one.
Go Away, Big Green Monster, by Ed Emberley
Another interactive book, with a monster who grows bigger and bigger with each page, this story is a great way to remind your children that they are in charge of their own fears. Eventually, the monster starts becoming smaller as your child gets braver, and finally disappears altogether.
Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?, by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Barbara Firth
A comforting story, Big Bear exhausts all of his efforts to teach Little Bear that there’s nothing to be afraid of until he turns to the night moon and stars for their help. The illustrations are so beautiful, and the story reads like a lovely lullaby.
What are your favorite fear-banishing bedtime reads?