Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Challenged Books

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - Wikipedia

Readers Response Blog 4

Schwartz, A., & Gammell, S. (1981). Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.  New York, NY. Harper & Row

Grades 6-8

Honestly, I was not looking forward to reading this book, I am not a fan of horror stories, ghost stories, or even thrillers, but once I started it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Some of the stories had a poetic slant on them, which added to the spookiness of the content. When I first saw this collection of stories listed on the reading list, it brought me back to 4th grade. We got scholastic book orders every few months and this book was on the catalog one time, and one of the boys in my class wanted to buy it so badly. So, once the order was placed everybody was waiting for him to receive the book, but the whole order never came. And being 4th graders we were positive that it was a curse that keeps the book from arriving when in actuality the package just got lost in the shipping process. I think you could use this book to analyze different writing styles. This collection of stories each have their style, some are songs or poems, while others are narrative, and some are told like folk tales.

I can see why this book is categorized as a challenged or banned book. The stories do heavily feature graphic, violent and grotesque images and language used in the book. You would have to use this book in an age-appropriate setting, you wouldn’t use it with 1st graders. But some kids love ghost stories and gross stuff. So, for an older group of children, who are interested, these would be a great addition to the classroom library.

I think you could look at the different writing styles used for a few of these scary stories and analyze them. You could then do a group project where students partner up and write their own ghost stories using one of the writing styles.

Lesson Sketch:

After selecting a few different stories, read together, and discuss the different styles the author used. For “The Big Toe” the story is narrated and has dialogue better the ominous voice, the boy, and the boy’s mother. Many of the stories have this same style as if someone is telling a folk story around a campfire. Other stories are rhymes or riddles. “A Man Who Lived in Leeds” is a rhyme. The rhyme starts very mild but ends with a blood-curdling scream. After discussing a few different stories, break up into partners, students will write their own scary stories, then present their story or rhyme and describe the style they picked and their inspiration.


Working as partners, students will write a scary story using either a narrative or rhyming style modeled after one of Alvin Schwartz’s stories.

ELA Common Core Standard for 6th Grade:

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.


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