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

By Julie Rawe

This article is part of

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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.

Dive deeper

Finding the right reading material

If kids struggle with sounding out words or need extra help building their vocabulary, make sure they’re reading books at the right level. Librarians can help find books on topics that are interesting to kids their age but written at lower reading levels. (These are often called “high-low books.”) Learn more about finding the right level books

Traditional books aren’t the only way to build reading skills. Explore the different text formats kids can try, like graphic novels or magazines.

For parents and caregivers: What to do next

Understanding why your child is anxious about reading lets you find the best ways to help. A good first step is to connect with your child’s teachers . Share what you’ve noticed and ask what they’re seeing. Find out more about how reading is being taught and what your child is working on in class.  

Keep in mind that kids develop different reading skills at different rates. And reading challenges can show up at different ages and can change over time. Learn more about why some kids struggle with reading .

For educators: What to do next

When kids feel anxious about reading, it can be hard to tell why. Use the list above to narrow down the cause or causes. Reach out to families to find out what they’re seeing. Then try specific strategies to address the cause. For example, if kids are worried about reading out loud, give them a chance to practice before it’s their turn. 

Explore teaching strategies that can help address causes of reading anxiety:  

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

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom