4 reasons kids get anxious about reading — and how to help

By Julie Rawe

Reading helps lots of people unwind. But for some kids, reading is anything but relaxing. It stresses them out. Even just thinking about reading can put them on edge. Here are some common reasons kids get reading anxiety.

1. Trouble sounding out words

Reading isn’t fun when every word is a chore to get through. And sounding out words can be extra stressful for older kids whose classmates have already mastered this skill.

2. Trouble with vocabulary

Kids get frustrated when they don’t know the meaning of a lot of the words they’re reading. This can get worse over time if kids are so frustrated that they avoid reading. Less time reading means less time being exposed to new words.

3. Trouble staying focused

Kids who have trouble with focus may struggle with paying attention to what they’re reading. This can make it hard to understand and answer questions about the text. And that can lead to feeling anxious about reading.

4. Thinking about past mistakes

This is often the biggest source of reading anxiety. Kids remember getting teased for reading slowly or mispronouncing words. Even small things can feel like failures to struggling readers. And thinking about past mistakes can heighten reading anxiety. 

Any of the above can make kids anxious about reading. But there are ways to help anxious readers feel more confident.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Julie Rawe is the special projects editor at Understood.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Rayma Griffin, MA, MEd has spent 40 years working with children with learning and thinking differences in the classroom and as an administrator.