Saint Louis University

ST. LOUIS - At the brink of fall every year, Mallory and Zachary run to the book shelf and pick out their favorite Halloween stories to read with their father Matt Broom, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University.

Matthew Broom, M.D.

Matthew Broom, M.D. assistant professor of pediatricsat Saint Louis University checks a patient,
Jayden Moffis.

Along with fun-filled activities like indulging in candy, carving pumpkins and dressing up in costumes, Broom and his wife have made reading part of their Halloween family tradition since their children were old enough to open a book.

"I think reading opens up many opportunities for building imagination," said Broom, a SLUCare pediatrician. "While reading all year round is important, Halloween is a good way to crack the ice."

Such books can get kids interested in the concept of reading and eventually get them involved in much deeper reading as they grow older.

"Halloween is the start and the reading extends into Christmas," he said. "It's great when your kids bring books to you and want to read a story."

Some of Broom and his family's favorite books are Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman, Halloween House by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Trick or Treat by Stan and Jan Berenstain. 

When young minds are lost in fantasies of ghostlands and pumpkins, they imagine a different world. They also start to wonder about the depth of these stories, their characters and how much of the story is actually real. Such books develop a child's thinking and lead to many curious questions, providing parents a golden opportunity to discuss important concepts with them.

"When we are reading together, my kids ask me a lot of questions - are there mummies? Are there vampires? How do you know they aren't real?" said Broom. "While some of them are easy to answer, others can be difficult to tackle."

Safety is one of the popular issues weaved into many Halloween stories. Broom said parents can use the opportunity to teach kids about being safe while they are trick-or-treating, which is always a concern this time of the year.

Broom sees a lot of value in getting kids excited about Halloween reading. Since they are surrounded by the holiday's festivities at home and school, it provides a perfect learning opportunity.

Many of these books have an altruistic theme, dealing with concepts of loyalty, justice, respect and integrity that parents can use as a platform to talk about the difference between right and wrong.

"A lot of books have a sad little Halloween character that is being bullied. Parents can use this as an example to open up their kid's mind and discuss the issue and see how they perceive it," he said.

Broom recalls reading a book to his kids that was centered on the theme of teamwork, an enriching lesson that parents can teach kids and help them apply the concept to their performance at school, soccer game or any other group activities they are involved in.

"Reading can be the entry point and broadened out into so many other areas like writing or art," said Broom. "This is a fun time of the year to sit down with your kids, review interesting stories, fictional characters, and just enjoy the holiday season with your family."

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious disease.