Anxiety can impact both physical and emotional health, and it can worsen as you get older. This is why it is so important to teach coping skills to kids. I use children’s books about anxiety as a gateway for opening up discussions in the learning environment. Whether you are a teacher, counselor, or parent, using books to help illustrate a topic is a great way for kids to learn. As you are reading, ask questions and engage the reader.
I often cover being anxious in my lessons, I use this Worry Monster Activity that discusses what worries look and feel like. One thing that helps my student’s anxiety in the classroom is having a calming corner. Check out this blog post on tips to set up a calming corner in your classroom or office. Here is a list of some of the awesome children’s books about anxiety out there that I use to help teach this topic to students.
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Title of Book and Author: Worry Says What by Allison Edwards
A short summary of the book: The main character of this book personifies her worry as a monster who lives in her mind. The monster, Worry, tells her she cannot do things, that people will not like her, and that she should not try new things. The main character finally talks to Worry and realizes that she will never not be scared unless she stops listening to him. She decides that she is finished listening to Worry but has to courageously stand up to him when he tries to creep back into her mind with messages that he has told her for a long time.
Why I like the book: This book assists children in identifying worries and silencing those fears by flipping the worries into strong reminders of everything one can accomplish. It demonstrates how one can use positive self-talk to drown out worries and also gives three helpful strategies for parents and teachers to use to help children at home or school. Allison Edwards does a great job of presenting many very relatable situations for students.
The moral of the story: You can choose to drown out your worries and turn them into something positive!
Topics covered: Worry; Courage; Positivity; Self-talk
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Worry says what on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: I’m Stretched by Julia Cook
A short summary of the book: The main character of I’m Stretched feels overwhelmed, and this feeling leads her to feel forgetful. She forgets to do important things like eat breakfast and finish her homework. She starts to feel very stretched and gets a lump in her throat and knots in her tummy. The main character’s mom explains to her that these feelings are called “stress”; her mom explains that sometimes stress can be a good thing, but when it is not it can be addressed in positive ways. Her mom teaches her different strategies to approach stress such as eating and sleeping better, scheduling “Me Time”, and letting others listen. She helps her daughter make an action plan and also realistically explains to her that these strategies may not always take away her stress completely.
Why I like the book: This book highlights the fact that stress is a real part of many children’s lives today and models several practical steps to help manage stress in a helpful way in order to continue living joyful, fun lives as children.
The moral of the story: It is important to recognize the signs of stress and know strategies to help manage it.
Topics covered: Stress; Stress management; Listening; Feelings
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): I’m stretched on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Anti-Test Anxiety Society by Julia Cook
A short summary of the book: BB does not like tests! She thinks they stand for Terrible Every Single Time….but her teacher helps her see that it can stand for Think Each Situation Through! She does this by teaching her 12 test-taking strategies to help her stay calm and focused for her test. These are the strategies discussed in the book: Tell yourself you can do well. Don’t cram, spread out your studying. When you study, draw a picture of what you are learning inside your head. Exercise every day, it’s good for your brain. Get a good nights sleep. Stay relaxed. Read the directions carefully. Skim the test so you know how long it is first. Write down the important stuff you need to memorize at the top or side of your test paper. Do the easy questions first to build your confidence. Cross out answers that don’t make sense. Check a random five. Check more if you have time.
Why I like the book: Lots of kids get stressed out by taking tests. This is especially true of kids who have anxiety, ADHD or learning disabilities, who may feel less confident in school. Worrying that they won’t do well can make it harder to focus in the moment, these strategies taught in this book will help combat that worry. This is an instant staple and much-used book during test-taking time.
The moral of the story: There are strategies to help cope with being stressed for the test.
Topics covered: Anxiety; Confidence; Self-esteem; Stress-management; Testing Strategies
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The anti-test anxiety society on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: What’s in your backpack? by Jessica Sinarski
A short summary of the book: The story is about Zoey, who recently had a traumatic experience with an unsafe parent. This resulted in her and her mom moving and no longer seeing her dad. On top of all that change, Zoey has a substitute teacher today because her teacher just had a baby. This is too much change for Zoey, and she starts to worry. Her mom talks to her explaining that “When we don’t know what to expect, worry wants us to imagine with fear.” She gives her a bookmark that reads “Imagine with hope” to help remind her that good things might happen. Zoey then meets her substitute teacher, who explains to her that she also carries around a worry “book” in her backpack too. She visits her School Counselor (this is my favorite part of course) and talks about: Being brave and having courage, getting rid of the shame, checking the facts (an emotion regulation skill from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), both/and concept (there is room for multiple truths and not just a single, right answer or way of doing something). Zoey’s worries are still there but she remembers she has her bookmarks that tell her to “be brave and courageous” so she can face anything that comes her way.
Why I like the book: This book really spoke to me, not just because there is a School Counselor in it (YAY!) but also the different concepts taught like checking the facts and the Both/and concept. I love the metaphors of the backpack (Zoey’s mind), books (worries/concerns/emotions), and bookmarks (coping skills). It makes the book so relatable for kids, because having so many worries can literally feel like you are being weighed down. The author did a fantastic job showing how we can nurture resilience in kids, and help kids impacted by trauma. This is a must for everyone who works with kids!
The moral of the story: Even if bad things have happened in the past, good things can happen in the future.
Topics covered: Anxiety; Trauma; Courage; Emotions; Stress Management; Coping Skills
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): What’s inside your backpack on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Wilma Jean and the Worry Machine by Julia Cook
A short summary of the book:
The main character in this book is a little girl named Wilma Jean. Wilma Jean worries about absolutely everything. She worries about things like her upcoming spelling test, her friend’s birthday party, and getting carrots in her school lunch. She creates scenarios in her head about every worry before it ever happens. Wilma Jean’s teacher wants to help her stop worrying so much. She teaches Wilma Jean to categorize her worries into two groups: Worries I Can Control and Worries I Can’t Control. She then discusses strategies to consider for worries that fall into the different categories. Wilma Jean eventually says, “Believe it or not, I was easy to fix.”
Why I like the book: Julia Cook helps children learn tools they can use to be more in control when anxious thoughts arise. The strategies discussed in this book could easily be used in the classroom to help students identify their worries and think through the “next steps” about them. It would be a great book to use in independent learning or large group discussion.
The moral of the story: Worry does not have to consume you.
Topics covered: Worry; Anxiety; Stress; Stress Management; Support
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Wilma Jean and the worry machine on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Leif and the Fall by Allison Sweet Grant and Adam Grant
A short summary of the book: Leif is a leaf. He is worried because it is autumn, and he will need to fall soon. Leif’s friend Laurel helps him try to find a different way down from the tree. They use items around them to create a net, a kite, and a parachute in an attempt to help soften Leif’s impending fall. Each attempt fails, and Leif begins to get discouraged as the other leaves make fun of him. When Leif eventually does fall from the tree, it turns out that it wasn’t so bad after all.
Why I like the book: Leif and the Fall helps children learn that having fears is normal. The authors portray the importance of friends in helping fears feel less scary and also highlight that failing can lead us to our greatest success.
The moral of the story: Sometimes accepting and overcoming fear takes work, but the work is worth it!
Topics covered: Anxiety; Persistence; Creativity; Facing Fears; Friendship
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Leif and the Fall on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Very Last Leaf by Stef Wade
A short summary of the book: The Last Leaf is about Lance Cottonwood. Lance is the greatest and smartest of the leaves at school, but even still, he worries. He makes high grades in all of his classes but is so nervous about his final exam of floating to the ground. He is afraid of falling off of the tree and makes excuse after excuse as to why he cannot do it. He even tries to look like an evergreen leaf and stay on his tree all winter long. A kind teacher helps Lance overcome his fear, and his classmates encourage him when it is time to let go. In the end, Lance lands safely on the ground and is extremely proud of himself for acknowledging and accepting his fears.
Why I like the book: This funny storyline by Stef Wade along with the colorful and playful illustrations by Jennifer Davison keep readers engaged. The story is relatable to most children as it discusses facing fears and accepting what is to come. This book is a great one to read in a classroom at the beginning of fall or in any transitional season in students’ lives.
The morale of the story: Recognizing and accepting your fears helps you overcome them. You gain self-confidence when overcoming fears too!
Topics covered: Anxiety; Acceptance; Facing Fears; Confidence
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The very last leaf on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires
A short summary of the book: Lou and her friends are brave, and they love adventures! They love to play and imagine things like running faster than airplanes can fly, building strong fortresses, rescuing wild animals, and more. One day, Lou’s friend suggests making a tree become their ship to play pirates in. Lou begins to feel worried. She has never climbed a tree before, and she is not sure that she will be able to do it. She suggests they play a game that is not up a tree, then gives excuses why she can’t climb, and finally says that she does not even want to climb the tree. Of course, this isn’t true because she is a brave adventurer. What will she do?
Why I like the book: Ashley Spires shows the procrastination, excuse-making, and denial that children often experience when presented with trying something new or hard. Spires’ book also demonstrates clearly the great empowerment and growth that one can feel after working through new challenges. Compassion is modeled through the book by Lou’s friends as they patiently help Lou.
The moral of the story: You can be brave and try new things!
Topics covered: Worry; Courage; Compassion; Resilience; Bravery; Facing Challenges
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Thing Lou Couldn’t do on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Flight School by Lita Judge
A short summary of the book: Flight School is about a penguin who shows up to flight school and is determined to fly. Penguin has a brave, persevering soul like an eagle, but his body was not made to soar. Penguin starts to become discouraged as he is told that flying is not for him and he sees all of the other birds taking flight. He decides to not give up and is successful in achieving his dreams with a little technical help from a friend.
Why I like the book: This story is a cute way to encourage young children to work hard towards their goals. Penguin is also a great model of positivity in the midst of trials.
The morale of the story: Determination and help from others are both vital in achieving your dreams.
Topics covered: Bravery; Worry; Determination; Positivity; Adversity; Support
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Flight School on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Don’t Feed the WorryBug by Andi Green
A short summary of the book: Wince is the Monster of Worry, and his archenemy is the WorryBug. Wince worries about so many different things. When he begins to worry, his WorryBug appears. At first, the WorryBug is small but as Wince worries more and more, the WorryBug grows. Wince begins to experience depressing feelings. Throughout the story, Wince learns to become self-aware of his worries in order to get rid of his WorryBug.
Why I like the book: In Don’t Feed the WorryBug, Andi Green helps students learn how to keep their worries from becoming monstrous. The rhyming words and colorful watercolor pictures in this book help keep younger students engaged in this book as it highlights a topic that is sometimes difficult to understand for this population.
The moral of the story: Everyone has worries. It is important to become aware of them though so that they do nor pile up and wreak havoc in one’s life.
Topics covered: Worry; Anxiety; Depression; Self-Regulation; Courage; Inner-Strength
Resources about Anxiety
Pair your favorite children’s books about anxiety with these worry activities to make the perfect classroom lessons.
Check out this FREE activity about learning to calm your worry: