It had never been a problem before.
But one bedtime shortly after Christmas, Baby Bookworm got upset when I tried to switch his lamp off, even though I’d done it every night since he’d been born.
The only way to placate him and soothe his worries was to leave it on.
Overnight, he had developed a fear of the dark.
The wonderfully vivid imagination our little boy had been delighting us with lately was now causing him to be scared and worried. But why?
Apparently a fear of the dark is one of the most common in childhood (I had a mild one myself) and the age of three is when insecurities like this first properly creep in.
Psychologists say being non-judgemental, helping your child put their fear into words and trying to find out the source of the anxiety can help, along with preparing them for the fearful situation in advance.
Stories and books don’t always help matters when you have a sensitive child – characters like witches, monsters and the Big Bad Wolf can suddenly alarm where they once entertained.
However, books can also be part of the solution. So here are three wonderful reads that tackle the topic of the dark – and being scared of it – in different but effective ways…
The King Who Banned The Dark by Emily Haworth-Booth. £6.99 (paperback), Pavilion
Like many little boys, the Prince had a fear of the dark. But instead of growing out of it, her grows into the King – and uses his power to ban it. Thanks to a PR campaign worthy of the Leave vote, he secures the support of his subjects, who initially revel in living under a permanent artificial sun and the benefits they think it brings.
But when they become exhausted from not sleeping and sick of risking a fine from the Light Inspectors, the people come together to revolt and show the King that the dark has its benefits.
What’s beautiful about this modern fable is not just the atmospheric black, white and yellow artwork by Emily Haworth-Booth, but the many levels at which the story operates. There’s the obvious topic of a fear of the dark, but it also sends a subtle message about power, revolution and the balance and light and shade in life. And you can probably put a little Brexit spin on it too! Available from Amazon
I’m Not (Very) Afraid) Of The Dark by Anna Milbourne, illustrated by Daniel Rieley. £12.99 (hardback), Usborne
Fears are funny things. Your head can tell you that they are silly, but your heart is harder to control. So while the little boy knows the Dark shouldn’t be scary, he can’t help the creeping dread as day turns to night and the Dark grows from small to big.
In this cleverly designed book, which uses lovely paper technology to illustrate stars and make scary faces become sweet, the boy and the reader discover that the Dark can be things other than scary – and lots of fun too.
We especially like the spread where the monsters under the bed and worrying shapes in his bedroom are rendered harmless the moment you turn the page and the light comes on. Hugely effective. Available from Amazon
The Rabbit, The Dark and The Biscuit Tin by Nicola O’Byrne. £6.99 (paperback), Nosy Crow
Thr Rabbit wants to play instead of going to bed and he doesn’t take kindly to nighttime coming along to the wood and stealing the light. So he finds an empty biscuit tin and steal The Dark instead, trapping it inside.
The Dark doesn’t take it lying down however, explaining to The Rabbit why he needs to be freed. After all, other animals like the bats, owls and foxes only come out at night, not to mention the lack of delicious breakfast after a good night’s sleep.
This charming tale will reassure the most reluctant of sleepers as to why they need to embrace the dark rather than reject it. Plus there’s a magical fold up surprise at the end when The Rabbit – and your child – finally set The Dark free. Available from Amazon
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