Helping Your Child Overcome Reading Anxiety: What Parents Should Know

Fri, 02 Jul by Kunal

How to Help Your Child Overcome Reading Anxiety

What is Reading Anxiety?

Reading anxiety is a specific, situational phobia towards the act of reading. In most cases, children with reading anxiety are able to read, but the fear that they aren’t capable of reading puts them on edge. This strong negative emotion impacts their attitude towards reading, which creates a cycle of heightened anxiety and lowered reading skills.

What Should You Watch for? Signs of Reading Anxiety

Signs of reading anxiety are not always obvious. When your child has a tough time latching onto the concept of reading, it may be a good idea to look for symptoms of reading anxiety.

Keep an eye out and see if your child shows any of these common signs of reading anxiety you need to watch out for:

  • Resists Reading

    • Shows dislike to reading vocally (“I don’t want to read.”)
    • Quits, shuts down, or refuses to try (“You can’t make me.”)
    • Throws a tantrum
  • Shifts Accountability

    • Reluctant to read alone (“I can’t read, I need your help.”)
    • Gives up too easily (“I can’t do this.” or “I don’t get it.”)

    Avoids Reading

    • Asks to leave the room during reading group (“May I use the bathroom?”)
    • Makes excuses for not participating in group reading sessions (“I can’t find my book.”)

    Shows Physical Signs of Anxiety When Reading Aloud

    • Trembling hands
    • Flushed face
    • Shaky voice
    • Fidgeting
    • Sweats
    • Restlessness
  • Shows Emotional Signs

    • Expresses a sense of dread (“Reading is stupid.” or “I hate my reading group.”)
    • Expresses worry about reading group activities (“Will I have to read, too?”)
    • Complains of fatigue (“I’m too tired.”)
    • Complains of frequent headaches and stomachaches

4 Common Reasons for Reading Anxiety in Children

  • When sounding out words is difficult.

    Sounding out words isn’t fun and can be extra stressful for children whose peers have already mastered the skill.

  • When vocabulary is limited.

    It’s easy for the kids to get frustrated if they don’t know the meaning of the words they’re reading. This frustration grows worse over time, so much so that they avoid reading altogether.

  • When paying attention is a struggle.

    Not paying attention to what they’re reading makes it hard for the children to understand the text. This can cause reading anxiety.

  • When thinking about past reading mistakes is painful.

    This is probably the biggest reason for developing reading anxiety. When children were teased or bullied for reading slowly or mispronouncing words, they feel like failures - incapable of reading. This can increase their reading anxiety.

5 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Reading Anxiety

The most effective way of helping kids with anxiety is to remind yourself not to be overwhelmed by your child’s reading anxiety. It’s hard to watch your child struggle, but don’t let it frustrate you or make you feel helpless. Once you are mentally ready to help him, you can use the following strategies:

  • Ask Questions

    You need to know what your child exactly feels about reading. Ask these questions such as

    • What scares you about reading the most?
    • What do you feel when you are told to read aloud in class?
    • What will make you feel better when reading?

    The answers can help you, and your child understand where the anxiety is coming from and identify ways to tackle it.

  • Find the Right Reading Material

    Get your children books of the right reading level that have topics of their interest. Traditional books aren’t the only way to help kids overcome reading anxiety. Explore different formats like magazines, graphic novels, books that have been made into movies, etc.

  • Read at Home

    One of the biggest benefits of reading storybooks at home is your child gets a comfortable environment to learn phonic words for kids and develop their reading skills. This boosts their confidence in their reading ability.

    So, make reading out loud an everyday routine. Set aside time for it each night. When reading at home, try these activities:

    Make your child write down words they aren’t familiar with and help them look for those words in the dictionary. Take turns reading aloud.

  • Celebrate Big and Small Wins

    When your child reaches their reading goals or milestones, be supportive and praise them. These milestones can be as big as finishing reading a whole book or as small as sounding out a few difficult words. This helps improve self-esteem in children.

  • Include Relaxation Techniques

    Include relaxation techniques in your plan to help your child overcome reading anxiety. Some of the relaxation techniques you can try with your child are

    • Positive self-talk
    • Squeezing a stress ball while reading
    • Deep breathing exercises

Knowing how to spot reading anxiety and taking steps to reduce it is an excellent start for making your child a strong reader. However, it’s crucial that you and your child work together as a team in your fight against reading anxiety. If your child needs some extra support, PlanetSpark’s Reading Skills curriculum is here to help!




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