A: Yes, we do! Here's a list of titles you can read aloud to your kids today – all of them about superheroes, most aimed at younger kids, ages 3 to 6.
The past decade has seen an explosion of picture books about superheroes. Many parents are concerned about violence in books and other media for children, and the basic idea of a superhero is that there's a bad guy to stop. If there's a bad guy, there's a strong likelihood that there's going to be fighting, maybe blood, and possibly death.
Clever authors & illustrators have managed to craft stories that include all the positive elements of superheroes (standing up for what's right, working together as a team, using your own special abilities, helping others, and wearing a cape) while de-emphasizing the terrible elements of the evil villains. In these books, the villains are not indestructible, the violence is off-screen, the battle doesn’t cause massive destruction, and the bad guy is stopped - not killed.
If you are hesitant to read these books aloud to your child, here are some further thoughts on reading violent books to children. First, there are books for every emotional, social, and intellectual stage of development. Can a case be made in favor of books that contain “violence” that is appropriate to each level? Consider these observations from the Children's Librarian's Desk:
- Violence is clearly fascinating to many children (as well as teens and adults).
- Families who shelter their children from violent literature do not seem to eradicate their interest in it nor their impulse to act it out.
- Reading superhero books does not seem to make a child more violent. (There is a little recent research on comic books and other literature with superheroes. However, anecdotally, my observations of library patrons indicate that readers become thinkers, and thinkers take a breath before they act violently.)
- Violence and aggression still exist in the real world, and many children are already trying to make sense of it. Even children who have been spared the direct experience of violence (or of witnessing it) meet other children who are experiencing it and they observe & interact with them with or without the presence and guidance of adults.
- Reading aloud together is an excellent way to start a dialogue about violence, consequences, and justice. The characters in literature can be good or bad examples, and while reading, you can discuss the best way to resolve conflict, recognize violence, avoid aggressors, and keep yourself safe.
It's important to choose books that are right for your individual child -- luckily, most books for 4-year-olds are short enough so you can pre-read them and get ready to answer questions, discuss ideas, and give real-life examples. You can avoid those books that may be a trigger of specific fears -- until you both are ready to read them.
It makes sense to avoid gratuitous bloodshed, exploitative costumes, and stories about truly depraved, twisted evil-doers, and stick instead to superheroes who fight simple crimes and lay out the concepts of consequences and justice plainly.
Isn't there something wonderful about super-powers, heroism, and winning a righteous fight? Even young children appreciate the vivid images of that glorious moment, of overcoming adversity, of standing proudly together, of your cape flowing in the wind!
The Picture Books that seem to me to best capture the awesomeness of superheroes, while respecting the sensibilities of younger readers are these:
There are a few board books:
...and in our Comic Books section, we have a few superhero series that avoid gore and give positive messages:
Enjoy this one last book!