What, you haven’t heard of All Hallow’s Read? Well, learn about it from Neil Gaiman.
It’s hard to start a new tradition, but I think this one is worth pursuing because it promotes literacy among kids and teens. If you cannot afford to give away scary books for Halloween (who can?), at least consider sharing your favorite short stories. Neil’s website has a good place to start, a printable version of E.A. Poe’s “The Raven” that can be folded into a mini-booklet. Great idea, though I think Poe’s a little hard to grasp for even adults.
I wanted to participate last year, but work on my own books got in the way. This month, however, I’ll be ready. I chose half a dozen stories from a horror anthology of flash fiction called Horrors! 365 Scary Stories. Each tale, fewer than 1,000 words, fits perfectly on a single page — printed front and back — on high-quality resume paper. At the top I included a header for All Hallow’s Read, plus the website address and a catchy slogan (Share a Scare this Halloween).
Obviously it’s important to choose stories that are appropriate for your target audience. Many of the ones I selected involve child characters, ranging from grade school to high school age. None of them is gory; the best stories build suspense on the implication of horror rather than an overt act of violence. Let the reader fill in the blank. And for classic flavor, I added a personal favorite of mine from Ambrose Bierce, “One Summer Night,” a nasty little tale about grave robbing that packs a healthy wallop.
I figure there will be enough to go around, so kids who come in groups can each get a different story and hopefully read them aloud to one another before bedtime. What better way to end Halloween night than with a scary story?