When I was in school we were required to read books, which were given a point value, and in order to get a good grade in English, we had to meet a set number of points by reading and taking tests on books. Now, I liked reading but having to read so as to earn points provided a mental block for me, because as a stubborn man, when I have to do something, even something I may want to do otherwise, I tend to buck at the assignment.
However, the wonderful Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine saved my skin when I discovered a treasure trove of spooky and fun reads which helped me meet my middle school requirements. Yet, I recently found out that there are books in the Goosebumps series that were challenged and were on the list to be banned throughout the 90s. I was a bit surprised by this because these books, to the best of my recollection, are about as zany and fun as you can get when it comes to “scary” reads for kids.
I have a number of favorites from the series and recall, even when the content was a little more serious, like being trapped in a town where you had to trick-or-treat forever or having an evil mask attached to your head for the rest of your life or having an army of evil scarecrows attempting to take over a farm, these stories are rarely scary enough to terrify a young reader.
Now, I realize this is subjective but when books like Goosebumps are challenged for being to scary or because there is “demoic” content and the like, I think parents are hindering the imagination of a child. We can read about scary events or come face-to-face with evil creatures without it deeply impacting our very being, or in the case of a young reader, scarring us for life. I would say, with the same argument against those who hate Harry Potter, even when evil or danger or violence appears in young adult or kids books, it’s rarely gratuitous and can teach a lesson.
Standing up for what is right, fighting to be free of evil, stopping a monster or malevolent figure, or simply stopping a villain are all themes I remember from reading these books, and again, while some readers may be impacted more by scary books than others, in cases where there isn’t a happy ending in Goosebumps, it’s typically not a horrific, dark ending that would mentally impact a reader for years to come. Again though, I know opinions on these challenged and banned books are subjective to a certain degree, and I know Goosebumps isn’t a new series that’s likely in the crosshairs of many parents, but I think keeping kids from these great little reads is misguided because they are so much fun and still provide great memories for me decades after reading them.