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Reading Anxiety in L1: Reviewing the Concept

John Zbornik Ph.D.
Educational Service Center of Lorain County


Reading skills are an important predictor of achievement in children (Kern & Friedman, 2008), especially in the early years. Children who reach fourth grade without being able to read proficiently are more likely to drop out of high school, reducing their earnings potential and chances for success (The Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2010; 2013; 2015). Unfortunately, at least 250 million primary school-age children around the world are not able to read, write or count well enough to meet minimum learning standards (UNICEF, 2014). Taking into account that strong reading skills form the basis for children’s learning, it is important to identify those who struggle with reading as early as possible. In addition, it is important to understand the variables associated with reading performance. In this paper, after a broad presentation of some variables associated with reading performance, we have focused in the investigation of the emotional process, specifically anxiety, and its impact in reading.

Studies have investigated the predictors of reading performance and have been focused mostly on cognitive factors, especially on phonological skills (Blischak, Shah, Lombardino, & Chiarella, 2004; Catts, Gillispie, Leonard, Kail, & Miller, 2002; Morris et al., 1998; Muter, Hulme, Snowling, & Stevenson, 2004). Although phonological abilities are essential, reading development is a complex and multidimensional process (Aaron, Joshi, Gooden, & Bentum, 2008; Fletcher, Lyon, Fuchs, & Barnes, 2007). It starts early in childhood, and it is expected that children reach proficient levels of oral and written language abilities by middle childhood/early adolescence (Craik & Bialystok, 2006; Hulme & Snowling, 2009; Snowling, Goulandris & Defty, 1996). The pattern of language development is similar across ages and languages, what suggests a strong biological process. On the other hand, the rate of development varies widely, meaning that other mechanisms may be involved, especially in the first years of childhood (Rosselli, Ardila, Matute, & Velez-Uribe, 2014). In this sense, reading predictors have been studied as an association of multiple factors including biological, genetic, environmental, emotional and cognitive factors (Fletcher et al., 2007).

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