Nyctophobia, or fear of the dark, is one of the most common phobias in children.
With the time change for fall back, comes the dark, now earlier than ever. I don’t like it when it gets dark where I live at 4:30 at night either! I hope these picture books help with fear of the dark. I love how there are so make different and original takes on the dark and how to make it less scary for kids in these ten picture books. Which ones are your favorites? Let’s add them to the list! Thank you!
Tiny T. Rex and the Very Dark Dark by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Jay Fleck
Tiny T. Rex and his friend Pointy are afraid of the dark but they still plan a sleepover outside. This requires a lot of contingency planning so the scary things at night won’t get them. When their plan fails, they find a source of light in the night sky. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Night Knights by Gideon Sterer, illustrated by Cory Godbey
This picture book is perfect for kids who like knights but are afraid of the dark. For kids who are scared of the dark and worry about monsters hiding under beds or in closets, they will sleep easier knowing that there are fantastical warriors protecting them when they sleep. The Night Knights are guardians that defend us all when it gets dark. They don’t blink on the job as they patrol both land and sea. Feel safer knowing that the Night Knights are everywhere. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Top 10: Scared of the Dark Books for Kids
10. There’s A Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer
My favorite book about being scared of the dark is this picture book, read aloud by Billy Crystal. It’s perfection! [picture book, ages 2 and up]
9. The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen
You might be afraid of the dark, but the dark is not afraid of you.
Laszlo is afraid of the dark who shares his house but mostly it hangs out in the basement. One night, the dark visits Laszlo in his room and invites him to follow him down … all the way to the basement. The dark has something to show Laszlo. The dark is so helpful! [picture book, ages 2 and up]
8. The Monster Who Ate Darkness by Joyce Dunbar, illustrated by Jimmy Liao
What if darkness was a tiny monster who hungered for the dark and eating the dark makes him grow? This is such an interesting take on darkness. But when the darkness is all gone, life on Earth is messed up. The nocturnal animals can’t sleep and even Jo-Jo who doesn’t like the darkness under his bed is unhappy. Luckily, the darkness monster knows just what to do! This is a fun “careful what you wish for” picture book. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
7. Darkness Slipped In by Ella Burfoot
This picture book uses texture — a shiny coating — for Darkness. It’s a tactile treat to feel the contrast as you read this rhyming story about Daisy and her new friend, Darkness. She’s not afraid of the dark at all, and invites Darkness to dance with her! [picture book, ages 2 and up]
6. The Dark, Dark Night by M. Christina Butler, illustrated by Jane Chapman
Now that it’s spring, Frog is excited to return to his pond but he doesn’t get back there until it’s dark. Just when he’s about to jump into the water, he sees a terrifying huge, black Pond Monster! His animal friends — Hedgehog, Mouse, Rabbit and Badger — come with him to help. It turns out that what the friends thought was a Pond Monster is just their own shadow! [picture book, ages 2 and up]
5. Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Barbara Firth
Little Bear is afraid of the dark in their cave and all the lanterns in the world are not enough to remove the darkness both inside the cave and outside as well. Big Bear, after many interruptions by Little Bear, finally takes Little Bear outside to face the dark which is puntuated by the moon and stars. Finally, Little Bear is able to fall asleep.
This is such a sweet and gentle picture book about both being afraid of the dark and effective bedtime stalling techniques. I would not read this book to my youngest because he’s already an expect at procrastinating his bedtime. 🙂 [picture book, ages 2 and up]
4. The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson, illustrated by Paul Howard
Plop is a baby barn owl and he’s afraid of the dark so he takes the advice from his mom and dad to learn more about the dark from a boy who invites him to watch fireworks, an old lady who reminisces in the dark, a boy scout who takes him camping, and a little girl who gives him a sock for a Christmas stocking. But Plop still doesn’t like the dark. A man with a telescope shows him the night is wondrous and a cat shows him the beautiful night world. Finally, Plop decides that the dark is just right.
When it comes to fear, I like the approach of facing your fears, armed with knowledge and courage. This picture book gently guides young readers by example. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
3. The Pout-Pout Fish and the Big-Big Dark by Deborah Diesen
When Ms. Clam loses her pearl on the bottom of the ocean floor, Mr. Fish must overcome his fear of the dark to get it back for her. He’s terrified but a mantra helps him: “I’m FAST as a sailfish, I’m STRONG as a shark, I’m SMART as a dolphin … but two are BIGGER than the dark.” Miss Shimmer’s friendship help him overcome his fear! [picture book, ages 2 and up]
2. Lights Out by Arthur Geisert
This is an almost wordless picture book. There are words but just on the first page! Little piglet is afraid of the dark but luckily he’s a STEM genius and constructs an elaborate Rube Goldberg contraption that delays when his light shuts off. This gives him time to fall asleep when his light is still on. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
If this contraption delights you, here’s a video to inspire you to make your own!
This is a beautifully illustrated Fear of the Dark picture book that I have on my Caldecott 2016 prediction list. I love how every page has something interesting about it, whether it’s a doodle-y page, an interesting layout, or a color scheme. The story is how Orion, who is afraid of the dark, meets The Dark. They hang out together and have wonderful nighttime adventures. It turns out that The Dark is afraid of weird night noises so Orion helps his new friend overcome that fear. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
And one more folktale from Thailand that fits this theme!
Little Lek Longtail Learns to Sleep by Bette Killion, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal
From the Thai rainforest, an Argus Pheasant hatches from an egg. His mother names him Little Lek Longtail. Because the rainforest has many predators, Little Lek is afraid to sleep. As he studies the creatures in his world, he realizes that they use their talents to help themselves. At bedtime, Little Lek figures out a way to use his longtail to keep him safe. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.