elementary school child reading book

My Kid is Afraid
to Read in Class

Maybe not all of us, but at least some of us have experienced what it’s like to freeze or perform poorly at something you’re good at because of a fear of crowds or performing.

This fright is what some children experience when they are called upon to read in school.

Your child’s teacher might have confirmed that your child is capable of reading, but you both find this child freezes or stumbles on his words when called to read in class. The issue can have everything to do with reading anxiety and just like any other phobia, the fear of reading is real.

Signs of reading anxiety

Reading anxiety can be officially diagnosed by a psychologist, but more often, the signs are there if you look.

  • Avoiding reading at home or in school and showing strong dislike for it. Mostly kids with reading anxiety can be vocal with not wanting to read out loud.
  • Showing restlessness while reading
  • Making complaints
  • Refusing to take part or requesting help they clearly don’t need
  • Stalling or asking to leave during reading
  • Fidgeting, shaky hands, flushed face, shaky voice, missing words, or sweating
  • Tantrums when asked to read
  • Expressing worry by saying things like “Are we going to read out loud today?”
  • Refusing to try
  • Giving up and saying “I don’t get it”

Effects of reading anxiety on students

Most phobias have no serious or direct effects on a person, but reading anxiety does. Since reading anxiety develops as your child starts to relate reading with strong negative emotions like fear and shame, the brain is forced to focus on this emotion when your child is asked to read in class.

This leads to difficulty in processing information and eventually learning is impaired. Reading also affects your child’s overall academic performance and so reading anxiety can make them struggle in other subjects too.

Other effects reading anxiety can have on a child experiencing it include –

  • Lack of sleep
  • Restlessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of being humiliated in public

Reasons for reading anxiety

Beyond the signs and effects, why does reading anxiety occur for some children? Is it all about the fear of reading in public? Here are some reasons why your child might experience reading anxiety:

  • Trouble sounding words, especially in situations where other classmates have already mastered this.
  • Not knowing the meaning of words
  • Lack of focus
  • Getting lost in the jumble of words on the page and not being able to find their place
  • Thinking about past failures of reading

What you can do to help

Reading anxiety is hardly one of those things children grow out of. It can take specific actions and solutions to help your child overcome reading anxiety. You can help your child with these steps.

Sit and talk about it

You should sit with your child to discuss how they feel about reading. Ask questions like how they feel when asked to read in class, do they like reading, and what’s scary about it?

Hear your child’s answers. This discussion helps you identify where the problem lies and helps your child too to understand their situation better.

Work with the teachers

To solve your child’s reading anxiety, you have to work with their educators. Contact their tutors or school teachers to discuss this problem and how you can both help your child.

Strategies that can be practiced both at home and in school include pre-reading books before asking the child to read in class; one-on-one reading lessons; improving vocabulary for the child to understand what they read.

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Use encouragement always

Create reading goals for your child and praise them when they complete these goals. Show your support and use words of encouragement even when they make mistakes.

Find books your child likes

Video games are always an interesting activity, but have you tried finding books your child likes as well? A visit to the library can help you find books on your child’s reading level they would love. It doesn’t have to be a textbook or educational book. Children’s stories or graphic novels can have the best results for a child afraid to read in class.

If you still can’t handle your child’s reading anxiety on your own, reach out to professional educators, private tutors, or even a doctor.

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