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Facing Fears and Bedtime: Books For Kids

“I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life." So writes Yann Martel in his classic, Life of Pi. Fear can be terribly debilitating in our lives, no matter our age. Children (and adults!) can have fears of all kinds of things, from big things, like fear of failure, to little things, like fear of bugs.

If fear is life's opponent, books may be life's best ally. As C.S. Lewis stated, “Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” Children's literature provides a powerful resource for helping children face and overcome fears and challenges. In these books and stories, children will see characters who have challenges or fears similar to their own. They'll see how the characters face these fears and challenges and what they do to manage or overcome them. These characters provide children with someone who understands their fears and challenges yet has also successfully overcome them and can inspire courage and offer comfort and reassurance. In other words, stories provide parents and loved ones a framework for talking about fears in a way that is less personal yet still relatable to children.

In this list, we highlight books about overcoming fears of all varieties. Books cover all kinds of challenges, like leaving home, being alone, stage fright, the dark, or even getting a haircut and more. You can use our table of contents to navigate to specific topics that are relevant to helping your reader overcome a fear, such as having courage to start school, overcoming the monster under the bed, being brave while learning to swim, and many others. You can also limit the list to certain book types: board books, great for babies and toddlers; picture books, perfect for toddlers through elementary school age; and chapter books, best for advancing readers through early middle school age.

We hope you can use this list to help children overcome their fears, whatever they may be. If you have a book that is not on the list that has been helpful in overcoming a fear, please share it in the comments below.

Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night book
#1
Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night
Written by Kallie George and illustrated by Oriol Vidal
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Feather, Flap, and Spike are spending their first night in their very own nest. They tell stories and snuggle up to get a good night’s sleep, until . . . GRRORE! What’s that scary-sounding noise? Young readers will find both humor and comfort in this cozy bedtime story, perfect for anybody who’s ever been nervous about a mysterious noise at night.

The King Who Banned the Dark book
#2
The King Who Banned the Dark
Written and illustrated by Emily Haworth-Booth
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Once there was a Prince who was afraid of the dark--like so many children are. But this boy became King and actually did something about it: he banned the dark completely! Soon, the sleep-deprived, exhausted citizens are ready to revolt. Can the people help the King face his fears and see that you can't appreciate the light without having the dark, too?

Good Night, Firefly book
#3
Good Night, Firefly
Written and illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Here is a magical bedtime story, sure to inspire readers with its message of friendship and kindness. Nina is afraid of the dark. Luckily she has a nightlight, but one night the power goes out. What can Nina do to keep the shadows from creeping in? She catches a firefly to keep her company. But soon it’s clear that what works for Nina is not good for her new friend, and so Nina has to make a decision. This is a story that celebrates the joy of doing the right thing—even when it’s not easy to do—with stunning black-and-white illustrations and fireflies represented by glowing spots of color—perfect to capture the effect of this heartwarming fantasy for the youngest child.

I'm Brave! I'm Strong! I'm Five! book
#4
I'm Brave! I'm Strong! I'm Five!
Written by Cari Best and illustrated by Boris Kulikov
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

It's bedtime but Sasha can't fall asleep because of the scary things she sees in her room. Luckily, she uses her imagination to battle her fears until she's finally ready for sleep. Sasha has had Mama's stories and Papa's jokes and coffee kisses on both her cheeks, but she's not tired. So she makes a star with her flashlight, a car with one headlight, and a lighthouse that blinks on and off. She checks out the noises outside her window and sees the moon--it is like a giant eye staring right at her! But when she closes her curtains, there are shadows and more noises and scary faces. Instead of calling to her parents, Sasha handles each situation herself because she's brave, she's strong, she's five--and then finally, she's ready for sleep. This energetic, gorgeously-illustrated bedtime book is perfect for young readers learning to conquer bedtime fears by themselves.

I Love You, Bunny book
#5
I Love You, Bunny
Written and illustrated by Alina Surnaite
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Sometimes Suzie gets scared in the night, but Bunny White is always there to look after for her. One night, a strange shadow creeps into the room, and Bunny White is nowhere to be found. I Love You, Bunny is a beautiful debut about overcoming being afraid of the dark, illustrated in a classic, nostalgic style. The heartwarming story is perfect for before bed reading, and Alina Surnaite displays a rare drawing talent reminiscent of Shirley Hughes and Martin Waddell.

  1. Brave Little Monster - BRAVE LITTLE MONSTER relates the humorous bedtime exploits of a young monster trying to go sleep while a scary little girl hides in his closet eating ice cream and a little boy colors under his bed. The wonderful illustrations by Geoffrey Hayes and fun storyline by Ken Baker make BRAVE LITTLE MONSTER a perfect bedtime story for little monsters everywhere. "Little monsters fear little girls and boys hiding in their rooms in this delightful parody of a nightly bedtime ritual

  2. A Nervous Night - Katie is nervous about a sleepover at her grandparents' house.

  3. Katie Goes Camping - Katie has a wonderful time camping with her friends Pedro and JoJo, but when it gets dark the shadows make ordinary things seem frightening.

  4. Goodnight Bob - It's bedtime for Bob. But, oh no, he sees a pair of eyes in the dark! Who is it? With a flashlight, Bob discovers it's a friendly creature wishing him goodnight. Goodnight, Bob! Then more eyes appear. Who is it now?

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!