A Student Survey on Scary Stories

This past month I did an informal survey of about one hundred MG students (6th and 7th graders/upper MG) to discover their opinions on spooky stories. The results, while not scientific or extensive, were interesting and informative, especially when I compared the results to our list of Spooky MG Authors’ titles. I hope teachers, librarians, and authors serving these students will also find this information helpful.

The students who participated were 6th graders from a charter school in Harlem, New York and 7th graders from a public school in Connecticut. When asked if they liked reading scary stories, over 80% said “Yes!” That’s pretty impressive. As a former school librarian, I think it would be difficult—if not impossible—to find another subject area with such appeal to a wide variety of readers. 

40% said they liked the stories totally scary, while close to 34% liked their creepy stories mixed with humor. 

As for subjects of interest in scary stories, HAUNTED HOUSES ranked at the top. Some examples of this topic by Spooky MG Authors include

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West

Beyond the Doors by David Neilsen. 

HUMOR was a close second, behind haunted houses. Spooky MG Authors often combine humor and horror in their tales, such as

Twist by Sarah Canon

Hello, Future Me by Kim Ventrilla

Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies by Jonathan Rosen.

Other subjects of interest students identified were:

ZOMBIES  

Legends of Lost Causes by Brad McLelland and Louis Slyvester

MURDER/MYSTERIES

The Stitchers by Lorien Lawrence

The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast by Samantha Clark

The Circus of Stolen Dreams by Lorelei Savaryn.

GHOSTS

The Spirit of Cattail County by Victoria Piontek

Ollie Oxley and the Ghost by Lisa Schmid.

ROMANCE (as in teen crushes)

The Witches of Willow Cove by Josh Roberts

Into the Shadowlands by Cynthia Reeg. 

GRAPHIC NOVELS were also popular with students. An example of an excellent spooky graphic novel is Anya’s  Ghost by Vera Brosgol. Another is Rania Telegmeier’s award-winning Ghosts.

Although not graphic novels, some deliciously creepy–and lavishly illustrated–books are the Warren the 13th series by Tania Del Rio and Will Staehle.

One student expounded on how totally unnerving realistic scary stories are. “Reading about something that could really happen to me freaks me out.” In our own Spooky MG Authors, we have examples of these creepy stories.

In Out To Get You, Josh Allen presents short stories with familiar settings but scary outcomes.

Fictionalized historic hauntings in the Virginia coal country are featured in Angie Smibert’s Ghosts of Ordinary Objects

Additional contemporary titles mentioned by the survey students were the ever-popular GOOSEBUMPS by R.L. Stine and for slightly more mature readers, FRIDAY NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S by Scott Cawthon.

Another favorite theme mentioned by the survey responders were spooky stories woven around MYTHS.

Examples of these from our Spooky MG Authors include

Motley Education by S.A. Larsen

The Total Eclipse of Nester Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas.

Specific favorites cited by students in the survey were CORALINE by Neil Gamon

DOLL BONES by Holly Black

THE THIEF OF ALWAYS by Clive Barker

A TALE DARK AND GRIM by Adam Gidwitz

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK by Alvin Schwartz.

But one of the most surprising subjects of interest (to me anyway and one that seems largely lacking from current titles) are scary SPORTS themed stories. I can see where this would be a popular combination for a number of student readers. 

Trapped In A Video Game by Dustin & Jesse Brady was the closest title for this combo category that I could find. If you’re familiar with any other of these creepy sport stories, I’d love to discover more. For authors, this may be a story mishmash to explore when drafting new chilling tales.

One final note that my mini-study of scary MG stories quickly revealed was the endless variety. While I’ve listed the various subjects mentioned by the MG survey readers, along with related titles, I must note that each title could easily be placed under more than one subject. Chilling tales are often a surprising combination of subjects and styles.

It seems that no matter which dark corner you peek into, MG readers enjoy scary stories. And luckily, there are a wide variety of chilling tales to creep into.

Happy reading—but I’d suggest keeping the lights on!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s