Inside: Books for kids with anxiety are valuable tools when you need to talk your children through their big feelings. We’ve compiled an excellent list of books here based on common childhood fears, and you don’t want to miss it. Check it out!
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The Best Books for Kids with Anxiety
When my sister and her family got a dog, I couldn’t wait to bring my boys over to meet Lulu Rainbow, their new Golden Retriever. Oh, she was so beautiful!
Lulu’s coat was downy caramel, she was teeny enough to hold in your lap, and based on my children’s reactions, she had the frightening face of a devil.
My boys, clearly, are terrified of dogs.
When Lulu was new and we would go spend an afternoon at my sister’s house, all hell would inevitably break loose. If Lulu so much as tilted her head in my kids’ direction, they would run screaming down the hall, find their way out the front door, and try desperately to break into my car. It became problematic. (And, lest you ask— no! There are no bad experiences with animals. They’ve never been chased, bitten or attacked. It’s just a struggle we’ve had since birth).
Little Kids, Big Fears
Little kids have big fears, and getting them to muster up courage in the face of something that inspires sheer terror is not just hard, it can be a monumental challenge.
Kids aren’t as logical as we are because their brains are in a constant state of development.
They have a hard time taking a step back from the things that scare them, looking at those fears head on, and rationally understanding the root cause of what it is that makes them so frightened. And getting them to talk about what is going on inside their little heads?
Forget it. It’s an awfully difficult task.
Books for Kids With Anxiety Help Kids Tackle Common Fears
Stories can help children recognize that they do not sit alone with their fears and that other kids grapple with the same frightful emotions.
This makes stories incredibly powerful tools. Not only is it beneficial when children can see themselves reflected in the stories they read, but these stories are also tremendously helpful to parents and teachers. Books give us an “in” — a simple, safe way to ease into a daunting conversation.
They help us explain to our kids that fears are universal; but just as we fear, we can also overcome, if we learn to harness the courage within ourselves.
Our Favorite Books for Kids with Anxiety
Whether it’s a fear of dogs or fear of the dark, fear of heights or fear of change, here is the our ultimate guide to books for kids with anxiety. We hope they help you as much as they have helped us!
RELATED: We’ve got all of the best children’s books for you on Happily Ever Elephants, so make sure to check ’em out!
Books for Kids With Anxiety: Things That Go Bump in the Night
Fear of the Dark
Orion and the Dark, by Emma Yarlett: This book has been on heavy rotation in our house for years, and it has become our favorite book to tackle fear of the dark. Yarlett takes something frightening — darkness — and personifies it in the friendliest way possible. She gives darkness a cuddly body, a shy smile and a gentle hand to hold. When the main character explores night with his new friend, scary noises become familiar and the unknown expanse of darkness isn’t nearly as frightening as it once seemed. Pair this concept with adorable foldouts and you can see why we think this story leads the pack when it comes to the best books for children who fear the dark. For our full review of Orion and the Dark, click here!
The Dark, by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen: There is no debating it — Lazlo is afraid of the dark. Unfortunately, Lazlo and the dark live in the same house, but at least the dark usually stays locked up in the basement. Until, however, the night it escapes. And on that fateful night, the dark actually comes up to Lazlo’s room. A brilliant story of one boy’s big fear — and subsequent achievement.
The Night Box, by Louise Greig and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay: When a child opens the Night Box, day slips into evening as darkness unfurls and stars light up the sky. He is the holder of the key that opens this wondrous box, the one that breathes out night and breathes in the day. What a wonderfully imaginative and unexpected story about one child who holds the key (literally) to our world’s most natural cycle. It is calming, soothing, and a story that helps quiet childhood fears of the dark. For our full review of The Night Box, click here!
RELATED: For More lists of books about fear of the dark, check out these posts:
Today’s Parent: 20 Books on Nighttime Fears
Fear of Monsters
I Need my Monster, by Amanda Noll and illustrated by Howard McWilliam: Have a child that is asking you to check just one more time to make absolutely certain there is nothing in his closet or under his bed before you leave his room at bedtime? Then you need this book, a witty, imaginative story that will undoubtedly turn the tables on your kids’ fear of monsters with a story that will make them laugh and breathe a sigh of relief. When Ethan looks under his bed to check on his monster, Gabe, Ethan finds a note from Gabe instead. What does it say? Gabe has gone fishing and will be back in a week! How on earth will Ethan get to bed without his monster’s heavy breathing lulling him to sleep? This book is guaranteed to get your kids laughing about ogres and beasts, rather than fearing them.
Leonardo the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems: Leonardo has a problem: he is one terrible monster. As hard as he tries, he cannot scare anyone! After his first attempt at frightening a little boy named Sam, Leo realizes Sam needs a friend instead of a monster… and in doing so, he goes against the grain and doesn’t act how monsters are “supposed” to act. I love the way this book challenges how we see ourselves — how we think we ought to be instead of who we want to be. Willems brilliantly illustrates that even the scariest creatures have emotions too, and some can even be quite sensitive to the needs of others. Not what any kid first thinks of when they conjure up images of a monster, is it? This one is a hoot — but even as it’s giving kids belly laughs, it’s also making them question everything they thought they knew about things that go bump in the night. For our full review of Leonardo the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems, click here!
RELATED: For a full list of post on books about monsters, click here!
Books for Kids With Anxiety: Common Childhood Fears
Fear of Making Mistakes
The Book of Mistakes, by Corinna Luyken: If you have a child that is a perfectionist, whether it comes to school or hobbies or creativity, this book is a must! The Book of Mistakes is a stunner, illuminating the inherent beauty that underlies every misstep we make. Readers follow Luyken on a creative journey, one that perfectly depicts how every “mistake” she makes actually becomes an integral part of her illustrative process. An “oh no” can become an “oh wow!” with just a bit of endurance and a whole lot of heart and imagination. For our full review of The Book of Mistakes, click here!
Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds: If only we could all think “ish-ly”! I love the way this book explores that there is no “right” way to create. Ramon loves to draw, but after his brother makes fun of what he sees in Ramon’s creations, Ramon hesitates at every turn. This causes Ramon to have a serious crisis in confidence, and a hobby he once loved becomes joyless. When Ramon learns his little sister has created a gallery of all of his artwork, she helps him find beauty in recognizing that his drawings do not need to be perfect replicas of real objects. This insightful story helps children realize it is ok for art to look “fish-ish” or “sun-ish,” thus providing the encouragement they need to find freedom in creation.
Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg: This book is an absolute gem that shows children (and adults!) that with a bit of creativity, our mistakes can be turned into discoveries. Maybe tears in paper, ink spills and drawing mishaps exist simply to make magic happen. This book, with its pop-ups and flaps and holes and tears, certainly makes it seem so. One of our forever favorite growth mindset books for kids!
Even Superheroes Make Mistakes, by Shelley Becker and illustrated by Eda Kaban: I fell in love with this book the second I saw it because I knew it was going to resonate perfectly with my six year old. And I was right. What is it about superheroes?! In this story, all of the superheroes make mistakes. They blunder, they stumble, they slip up and err. And when this happens, do they shout, “it’s not fair?” Absolutely not! A real superhero fesses up and admits his mess ups. This is a fabulous book for helping kids recognize that everybody makes mistakes and no one, not even a superhero, is perfect. For our full post on books that teach responsibility to kids, click here!
RELATED: For more great books about a fear of making mistakes, check out these posts:
Big Life Journal: 14 Books and Activities to Help Your Kids Learn From Mistakes
Soaring with Snyder: 15 Great Picture Books to Help Children Manage Perfectionism
Fear of Being Different
Old Hat, by Emily Gravett: Staying on top of the trends, having the right clothes, gadgets, accessories and things, is a major concern when children are little. How do we celebrate uniqueness? This is an excellent choice if you are looking for a story to remind your little ones how awesome it is to have distinguishing physical character traits. Instead of trying to cover up the things that make us unique with the latest trends, there is beauty to be found in individuality and so much joy to be had when we learn to value the characteristics that make us special, just like Harbet does in this story. It is so profound when kids discover that being different is much cooler than following the pack! For our full review of Old Hat, click here!
Normal Norman, by Tara Lazar and illustrated by S. Britt: What is normal anyway? Is there even an answer? This is the question Normal Norman seeks to answer, and it handles this important inquiry with tact, ingenuity, and a whole lot of humor. In this story, an eager junior scientist sets out to find an answer to this question, as she is narrating a book that will give definition to the word normal. But what happens when her subject, Norman, is an orangutan who goes against the grain and does things quite differently than she expects? The result is witty and smart, imparting the notion that being different — being yourself — is the most precious gift. For our full review of Normal Norman, click here!
Spork, by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault: Spork is the product of two loving parents- one spoon, and one fork. But as a combination of the two, he sticks out in the cutlery drawer! He’s either too round, or too pointy, and he can’t figure out quite where he belongs. But then a baby arrives at the table, and it’s this small child who paves the way for Spork’s self-actualization and acceptance, reminding us that no matter who we are or what we look like, we all have a place at the table. For our full review of Spork, click here!
Related: For more great books about being different, check out these posts!
Self Sufficient Kids: 11 Children’s Books About Why it’s OK to be Different
What Do We Do All Day: Boost Self Esteem With Children’s Books About Being Different
Huffington Post: 25 Children’s Books that Celebrate Differences
Fear of Heights
Jabari Jumps, by Gaia Cornwall: This book explores a fear of heights and the courage one boy must find within himself to take a leap — off the high diving board at the community pool, that is! Jabari’s fear of heights is handled with authenticity and tenderness. Kids see their own stalling techniques mirrored in Jabari’s actions, such as allowing other children to pass him in line so they can climb up the tall ladder before him, and the excuses he comes up with up to delay his turn even more. Add to this Jabari’s father who patiently encourages him despite his fears, and you have a winning formula – a picture book you will turn to over and over again. For our full review of Jabari Jumps, click here!
After the Fall, by Dan Santat: This is the story of what happens after Humpty Dumpty gets put back together and how he manages to overcome his newfound (and crippling) fear of heights. The themes embraced here — anxiety, resilience, and putting oneself back together after a fall — lend themselves well to didacticism, but Santat delivers this story with the the lightest touch, enabling it to speak to children at all social and emotional maturity levels. A masterpiece! For our full review of After the Fall, click here!
Fear of Change and/or Growing Up:
Little Tree, by Loren Long: This is a classic in the making, and one of the most beloved stories in our home. Growing up is daunting. Facing change is downright frightening, and sometimes, we hold tight to the present in order to resist the future. But what happens when the world is changing all around us, our friends are leaving us behind, and we are not thriving or growing? This is a beautiful, tender story about one little tree’s difficult journey and the reward he finds when he ultimately feels safe enough to let go. I dare any parent to read this without crying!
The Koala Who Could, by Rachel Bright and illustrated by Jim Field: This darling story is about a koala named Kevin who is awfully scared of change. So much so, that he refuses to come down from the tree to which he clings. But one day, Kevin realizes something awful is happening. His tree! It’s falling! When he lands on the ground, will he embrace the joy that comes with a new adventure? Fun rhyme, great characters, and a terrific theme make this a winner for kids fearful of making changes or transitions in their lives.
Books for Kids With Anxiety: Routine Life Events and Transitions
Fear of Starting School
Mae’s First Day of School, by Kate Berube: It’s almost the first day of school, and Mae makes a big decision. She is NOT going. After all, school is scary, and what happens if no one likes her? Mae is so scared when she arrives at school that she climbs up a tree in attempt to hide. But then company comes along, and Mae realizes making new friends isn’t nearly as hard as she anticipated. We love this story because it respects the fears many children battle as they begin a new school year and gently reminds kids that they aren’t alone with their nerves- other students, and even teachers, get anxious too. We just adore Kate Berube’s style!
The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez: So many of us have felt anxiety upon standing in a doorway about to enter a room where the blanket of faces staring back at us look wholly different from our own. This book tells that story, that of a young girl who walks into a new classroom and finds no one like her. But eventually she sits down and her classmates begin talking, and as their words fill the air, shared sentiments become bridges to building connection. A breathtaking read, both in pictures and prose. For our full review of The Day You Begin, click here!
First Day Jitters, by Julie Dannenberg and illustrated by Judy Love: Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared — and she does not want to begin the new school year. She knows it’s going to be a bad day, and she knows nobody will like her. But wait – who is Sarah Jane Hartwell anyway? We love this one because kids get a total kick out of who really gets the jitters when summer ends and the first school bell rings. The surprise will leave them squealing with glee!
Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes: From spilling her juice to snakes in the radiator, poor Wemberly worries about everything. But there’s one thing she worries about most: the first day of school! When Wemberly begins her new year, she meets a fellow worrier in her class and realizes that maybe she has nothing to worry about after all. We just adore Kevin Henkes work and the way he writes so authentically from a child’s perspective!
Fear of Separation
The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn and and illustrated by Ruth E. Harper: Leaving a parent is not easy for many kids. Separation anxiety, much?? Whether it’s going to school for the first time (or even the 100th time!) or simply being left with a babysitter, that separation can be tough with a capital T. This book has helped us through so many situations, and my boys always remember that wherever they go, I am always with them, even if not physically present. I can’t even recall how many times I have reminded them to make use of their kissing hands – it has become so ingrained in our routines. All the love for this one and its ability to speak so perfectly to children! See our full review HERE.
The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff: This is such an amazing book for separation anxiety. One day, a mother tells her children about the invisible string that connects them all the time. The kids, of course, demand to see it, but mom tells them the string is simply made of love. We love the way this book beautifully tackles the idea of unconditional love, and that even when we are far away, we are forever connected. Whether its death, divorce, school, or any other situation in which a child has to separate from a parent he doesn’t want to leave, this one is a gem.
Related: For more books about separation anxiety, check out these posts:
Sleeping Should be Easy: 11 Children’s Books About Separation Anxiety
Books for Littles: The Best Children’s Picture Books to Calm Separation Anxiety
Fear of the Doctor
The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor, by Stan and Jan Berenstain: In this classic picture book, the Berenstain Bears visit the doctor for their annual checkup! Pefect to talk your kids through what happens at the doctor, from sitting in the waiting room to getting your heart checked to getting temperature taken to tackling the biggie: shots. This book describes a visit to the doctor in simple, relatable ways and is a perfect one to read to prepare your kiddo for that dreaded appointment.
Related: For more books about going to the doctor or visiting the hospital, check out these posts!
Little Parachutes: Picture Books About Doctors, Hospitals & Operations
She Got Guts: 15 Books for Kids About the Doctor
Books for Kids With Anxiety: Social Situations
Fear of Engaging with Others (Being Shy!)
Shy, by Deborah Freedman: Shy remains unseen in the gutter of the book, too nervous to confront his fear of having to interact with others. Shy loves birds, though, but has only ever read about them. One day, Shy hears and sees a beautiful bird flying near him, but he is too nervous to leave his home. Will he eventually find the courage to leave? And if he does venture out of his home, will he show us his face or try to stay hidden among other animals he meets along the way? This gorgeous, gentle book experiments with form, art and prose in a manner so fresh and unique, it makes you feel as if you are discovering a book for the very first time. An all time fave! For our full review of Shy, click here!
The Bear Who Stared, by Duncan Beedie: Bear likes to stare… and stare and stare. He doesn’t mean to be rude, of course. He’s just curious — and too shy to speak and say hello. As you can imagine, his staring gets him into a little bit of trouble… until a googly eyed frog shows up and teaches him how easy it is to smile and say hello. This one is adorable!
Related: For more books about being shy, check out these posts!
Very Well Family: 10 Popular Children’s Books that Deal with the Topic of Shyness
Fear of Speaking Up
Say Something, by Peter Reynolds: Recognizing that our words can have an impact on the world around us can be daunting. It takes courage to speak up, and it can take tremendous perseverance to actually make yourself heard. But being armed with knowledge that our voices are tools to build goodness and weapons to destroy hate is a mighty, mighty thing… and this empowering book shows kids all the ways in which their words matter. The power of voice is a remarkable thing- and this is a great book to foster the notion that children should be seen AND heard. For our full review of Say Something, click here!
The Lion Inside, by Rachel Bright and Jen Field: No matter if your child is big or small, this delightful book reminds kids that we all have two animals inside us – a lion, and a wee little mouse. But you know what? Even that teeny mouse has a big voice and a lot to say, and it’s important to speak up. No matter how small or insecure we feel at times, each and every one of us has the power to roar!
Willow’s Whispers, by Lana Button and illustrated by Tania Howells: Poor Willow speaks so quietly! Though she wishes her voice came out loud, her words instead slip out as shy as a secret. This, of course, causes all sorts of problems for her at school. But Willow is clever, and she creates a magic microphone from items she finds in her recycling bin. Suddenly, her voice is loud! But what happens when her microphone breaks?
Fear of Being Bullied or Not Having Friends
One, by Kathryn Otoshi: Red is a hothead who continuously picks on Blue. Though this bullying is witnessed by several other colors, no one is ready to stand up for Blue and tell Red to stop his taunting. But then One comes along, and One has no qualms about standing up to Red — and in doing so, One teaches his friends a valuable lesson. At once a concept book on both colors and counting, the story more importantly provides a spring point for discussions on bullying, kindness, and inclusiveness. For our full review of One, click here!
Stand Tall, Mary Lou Mellon, by Patty Lovell and illustrated by David Catrow: Molly Lou Melon is not your average hero – she’s a small, buck toothed girl with a voice “like a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor.” Yet, thanks to her grandmother, Molly’s got unbreakable self-esteem. When she begins a new school, will Molly have enough confidence — and enough courage — to stand up to the school’s most horrible bully? Hooray for Mary Lou Mellon, the most unlikely hero your kids are sure to adore!
The Invisible Boy, by Trudi Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton: Brian is never seen or noticed by his classmates. He has no friends, and thus appears in the story devoid of color, making him invisible at school. Eventually a new child winds up in Brian’s class and Brian is the first to reach out to him. When a bond forms between the two boys and they are teamed up to work on a class project, Brian finds a way to step out of the shadows and flourish. Not only does he make a new friend, but Barton’s illustrations show how small acts of kindness fill Brian up with color until he is, quite literally, a vibrant force in his classroom. For our full review of The Invisible Boy, click here!
Fear of Performing
Jack’s Worry, by Sam Zuppardi: If your child has a fear of getting up on stage, whether to perform in a recital or give a class presentation, this is a must for your shelves. Jack loves playing his trumpet and can’t wait for his first concert. Until, that is, the morning of that first show when he finds he has a big worry following him everywhere. He tries to play his trumpet to make the worry go away, but it only makes things worse. What happens if he makes a mistake when he is on stage? When he finally shares his worry with his mom and realizes performing is more about having fun and sharing what you love with people who love you, he finds the courage to continue. And he also finds that he’s not alone – his friends have worries of their own.
PIlar’s Worries, by Victoria M. Sanchez and illustrated by Jess Golden: Pilar is a dancer. She loves ballet and leaps to class and plies while brushing her teeth. But when auditions are held for coveted parts in her favorite ballet, Pilar can’t hide her anxiety. Gentle and inspiring, this tender book shows how one girl copes with her worries and perseveres despite them
Books for Kids with Anxiety: The Great Outdoors
Fear of Thunder
Thunder Cake, by Patricia Polacco: I am in love with this book, to the point that it’s tenderness makes my eyes well every time I read it. This is the story of a young girl who lives on a farm with her grandma, and as a storm approaches and thunder rumbles, the girl is so scared she hides under a bed. Leave it to Grandma to turn the storm into an adventure. The bad weather is nothing to worry about – instead, the clock is ticking for them to get a Thunder Cake into the oven before the storm arrives! This is a warm and wonderful tale, depicting one grandparent’s brilliant method to inspire adventure, distraction, and even fun, all in the face of her granddaughter’s biggest fear.
For more books about fear of thunderstorms, check out Books and Giggles: 10 Reassuring Books About Storms.
Fear of the Ocean/Swimming
There Might be Lobsters, by Carolyn Crimi: If you have a kid who makes up excuse after excuse to justify her fears, this is the book for you. Poor Sukie is having a rough day at the beach. She’s scared of the ocean because she’s just a small dog and the waves are really big and the sand is really sandy and she might get a shell up her nose and, most importantly, there might be lobsters. One day though, Sukie has to learn the hard way whether she has what it takes to face her fears and save her beloved monkey from the depths of the ocean’s floor. Will you be brave in the face of danger, too?
Saturday is Swimming Day, by Hyewon Yum: If your kids are hesitant to jump into the water, this story is a must. One little girl happens to get a stomachache every Saturday before her swim lessons. With the help, patience and kindness of a wonderful teacher, the child finds her confidence and realizes she can’t knock something if she doesn’t even try it! Absolutely love this gentle story that is so authentic and accessible for young kids.
Lottie and Walter, by Anna Walker: When Lottie goes to swim class on Saturdays, she never gets in the water. Why? Because there is a shark in the pool, of course. And that shark is going to come after her and gobble her up! But then Lottie meets Walter, and the two have a lot in common, including their love of fish sticks. Will some encouragement from Walter help Lottie get into the pool and teach her to become fearless instead of fearful?
Fear of Dogs
Hannah and Sugar, by Kate Berube: This story finds its way onto so many of my book lists, that’s how much we love it! Every day when Hannah gets to her bus stop after school, Violet’s mom is waiting for the children with their dog, Sugar. And every day, Hannah quietly refuses to pet the dog. Why? She’s terrified, of course. So when Sugar goes missing one day, and Hannah is the one to find the poor pup stuck in the bushes, Hannah must find the courage to bring Sugar home. Every time my big one has to bring his favorite book to school (or write about it, or talk about it), Hannah and Sugar is no doubt his very top choice. For our full review of Hannah and Sugar, click here!
Fear of Creepy Crawlies
Hey, Little Ant, by Phillip Hoose: I bet your kids never wondered that as scared as they may be of ants and other tiny bugs, those bugs are even more scared of them! I love the way this book turns the tables on a fear of ants and encourages kids to consider how a little insect may be feeling about having a run-in with a big kid! Not only will it help your little one refrain from harming these bugs, but it also helps to alleviate fear.
Books for Kids With Anxiety: General Fears
Fear of Strangers or Bad Things Happening
Most People, by Michael Leannah and Jennifer E. Morris: The world can be big and scary, with some people that don’t make the best choices. But most people smile, and most people laugh… and most people are inherently good. I love the way this multicultural children’s picture book showcases all forms of goodness, from the big tattooed man helping an elderly woman cross the street, to a “goth” looking teenager returning a lost wallet to its owner. This is a gem, and one I love having on my shelves to turn to during tough times.
Good People Everywhere, by Lynea Gillen and illustrated by Kristina Swarner: When the news is tough or a troubling situation occurs in your town, this is a powerful book to remind children that good people truly are everywhere. There are always people helping others during troubled times, there are always people willing to extend a hand, and there are always people who are kind and good. Sometimes, all it takes is a gentle story to remind children of this important message, and this book does just that!
Fear of Everything
Scaredy Squirrel, by Melanie Watt: Scaredy Squirrel is so scared of his surroundings, he won’t ever leave his tree! He has back up plans and contingency plans and a whole system set up to deal with anything that goes amiss. But what happens when his worst fears actually come to be, and he finds himself plummeting from his tree to the ground below? This is such a fabulous book to help kids recognize that they will never be able to control the world all around them, but if they learn to let go a little bit, they may find a whole lot of fun in their surroundings. Even though a new experience is daunting at first, it will usually create a lot more joy than fear!
Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster, by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt: When Johnathan James finds himself in new situations, the Whatif Monster comes back, nagging him and refusing to leave him alone. What if its scary? What if they laugh? What if, what if, what if. The Whatif Monster, it seems, just doesn’t want Jonathan to try anything new! But then Jonathan starts to ask himself some questions — what if it’s not scary? What if they don’t laugh? Then what? If you have a child who is constantly “what-iffing” and talking herself out of everything, this is the book for you!
Worry Says What, by Allison Edwards and illustrated by Ayesha L. Rubio: I love the way this book personifies worry as a big monster constantly whispering in a child’s ear. This is an excellent book to show children that their worries and fears aren’t always accurate, and it helps children learn to flip their feelings when they find themselves beginning to feel anxious.