20 Bad Books To Give To Young Kids

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Everyone thinks these are childhood classics, but maybe wait a couple years before handing these weird (but good) books over to your kids

Primary school (Photo by: Godong/UIG via Getty Images)

Now, I want to get something out of the way right up front. I think people should read pretty much whatever they want. I also think that kids, if they’re determined enough, are going to get their hands on whatever media they want to find. Restricting a kid’s or young adult’s access to books is essentially a losing battle, and I fully support all the smart, crafty kids who are just going to go ahead and read Stephen King regardless of their age.

That said, I respect the desire of parents to guide their kids’ reading choices. After all, if your kid has a hair-trigger for nightmares, it’s completely justified to steer them away from Pet Sematary. Tell them why you don’t think it’s right for them and be as direct as you can. Say that they may want to wait a while before they dive right into something that might wedge its way into their little brain. That’s fine.

What’s baffling is the number of adults who circulate books that, despite appearing to be for kids, are… well. Depending on the kid, they’re not quite right. Maybe you’ve read them yourself. Perhaps a well-meaning adult handed Watership Down to you, thinking you’d enjoy a sweet, innocent story about bunnies. Or it could be that an overzealous English teacher decided that Lord of the Flies was fine for their seventh-grade class. Whatever the reason, we’ve all likely had our own run-ins with some unexpectedly terrifying books.

In that spirit, I’m offering up a selection of books (many of which, to be fair, are excellent works) that unwary adults should know. Again, if your particular kid is mature enough to deal with the issues depicted within each book, go ahead. Novels and books of all kinds are wonderful things for kids to consume, and it’s a great goal to help them get in the habit of reading for fun. Indeed, I’m a huge fan of many of the books included in this list.

Still, just in case, here’s a list of books that are inexplicably given to kids, which you may want to check out first. Some of these slides may contain spoilers for the book.