The ABCs of Helping a Shy Child

The Reading Tub, Inc. is all about literacy … helping kids learn to read and giving families the tools to nurture this critical skill. There are many facets to literacy, and much of it starts with a child’s own perceptions.

At lunch today, I read a Washington Post article about Seung-Hei Cho, the student who killed fellow students, faculty members, and himself at Virginia Tech in April 2007. [“Uknown to VA Tech, Cho Had a Disorder,” Washington Post, 8/27/2007]

We have heard or read lots about Cho’s psychological profile, but I learned something new. He suffered from a condition called selective mutism, a symptom of an anxiety disorder. Here is a vignette from a student in one of Cho’s high school classes (paraphrased from the article): when asked by a teacher to participate in class (like reading out loud), Cho would become paralyzed and could not speak. Then the students would start laughing at him.

I’m sure you can see why that story caught my attention. Cho’s was a severe reaction, due to a diagnosed emotional disability. Still, I would bet that there are individuals who are shy who can IN A SMALL WAY understand his feelings of fear. What if our child is shy? What if our child was afraid to read out loud to his classmates? Would we want people laughing at him?

Laurie Adelman (BSN, Masters in Family Health/Health Education) has written a book about helping children who are shy. Laurie has graciously given us permission to post an article about helping shy children on our Website. Click here to read it. The principals that Laurie presents in her work also are readily applied to helping a child who is afraid to read. Reading or learning to read may be one of those things that causes great anxiety for our kids.

* Parents, teachers, TV commercials all tell us how important it is to read … and to do it NOW.
* Their friends may already be reading books.
* As parents, we fall into the trap of thinking our kids should be reading “just like their friends.”
* Kids may feel uncomfortable reading words aloud. They may be afraid someone will laugh if they mispronounce a word.

You can think of other reasons, too. The bottom line is this: some kids find the idea more than a little bit overwhelming. Regardless of their reasoning, in their mind, learning to read seems “too hard.” So our role is to encourage, not pressure!

Thanks to Laurie, there are things we can do to help with the every-day, completely natural anxieties our kids experience when moving to something new!

School is in the Bag

Odds are your kids are already back to school … but some school districts don’t resume until after Labor Day, so hopefully this note is perfectly timed!

I have culled through the Book Bag on the Reading Tub® Web site to find some books that can help ease the butterflies of those heading to school for the first time, those who still get nervous even though this is “old hat,” some titles that you may find useful for reinforcing basic skills, and (unfortunately) some books to help with bullying.

The list is grouped into early workbooks, picture books, early reader books and Middle School books (for kids transitioning from elementary school). If you have a favorite that worked in your house, please add a comment.


The American Schoolhouse Reader (3-book set)
by Beverly Allie, editor
Bully Brigade by Betty Jo Shuler
Help Your Kids Get it Done Right at Home and School by Donna Genett, Ph.D.
Let’s Get Ready for First Grade by Linda Desimowich and Stacey Kannenberg
Let’s Get Ready for Kindergarten by Linda Desimowich and Stacey Kannenberg
30 Minutes a Day Learning System (Preschool) by Brighter Minds
30 Minutes a Day Learning System (Kindergarten) by Brighter Minds
30 Minutes a Day Learning System (Grade 1) by Brighter Minds

Boomer to the Rescue by Peter Parente
D.W.’s Guide to Preschool by Marc Brown
Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London
I’ll Do the Right Thing by Jean Alicia Elster
Maddie and the Magic Penny by Celeste Scheinberg
Maggie and Kate: A Friendship Begins by Peggy A. Schmuldt
Molly McSholly Conquers Kindergarten by Tracy Uttley
Mouse’s First Day of School by Lauren Thompson
My School / mi escuela by Ginger Fogelsong Guy
Songs for School with the Bandimals (Vol 1, series 2) by Herb Bridgman
Thank You, Esther by Charlotte Lundy
Tomorrow is the First Day of School by Maureen MacDowell

Marvin Monster’s Teacher Jitters by Tabatha D’Agata
Morris Goes to School (I Can Read Level 1) by Bernard Wiseman
What a Day it Was at School by Jack Prelutsky

A Bully’s Doom: The Whisperer’s Tale by Robert Hansen
Click Here to See How I Survived Seventh Grade by Denise Vega
The Computer’s Nerd by W. Royce Adams
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Help Pick the Next Award-winning Children’s Book

Those of us who have jumped in the Tub as reviewers are lucky to be surrounded by books. We love reading with our kids and catching up with what children’s authors and their publishers are offering our kids. But we have never actually influenced what gets published. Until now.

One of our visitors sent us a note and told us about the (Third Annual) ABC’s Children’s Picture Book Competition. Judges have selected 12 finalists, and the public gets to vote on which manuscript will become a published book. Mark your calendar for September 16-30 and head over to the ABC’s Children’s Picture Book Competition website to vote. (Don’t worry, we’ll send a reminder through the blog!)

So, as avid readers of children’s books — not to mention parents who have great say in what we want our children to read — be sure to add your say to the next book you’ll want to read to your kids! Since kids can vote, too, you can make this a family reading event!

In the interest of full disclosure … author Mayra Calvani told us about the contest. Her story, The Doll Violinist, is one of the finalists.