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 children’s books here based on common childhood fears, and you don’t want to miss it. Check it out!
Little kids have big, big fears
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.
Little kids have big fears and getting them to muster up courage in the face of terror is not just hard, it can be a monumental challenge. Kids aren’t as logical as adults. Their brains are in a constant state of development.
Children have a hard time taking a step back from the things that scare them, looking at their fears head-on, and rationally understanding the root cause of what it is that makes them 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 conquer fears
Books for kids with anxiety help children recognize 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 see themselves reflected in the books they read, but children’s books about anxiety 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.
So whether it’s a fear of dogs or fear of the dark, fear of heights or fear of change, here is our ultimate guide to books for kids with anxiety. We hope they help you as much as they have helped us!
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Frequently Asked Questions
I will forever love the power of children’s books to help kids feel seen and less alone. Kids’ books open the door to conversation about common childhood anxieties. The books on this list act as springboards for discussion, giving grownups an “in” to start important talks about the topics their children worry about. In addition to books, meditation techniques and deep breathing help as well. If self-help strategies do not help to calm your child, however, it is important to seek professional counsel.
There are three books I love! For fear of bedtime, I love Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett, which was a lifesaver and was on constant rotation when my boys were little. For fear of change, Little Tree by Loren Long is an absolute beauty! And for social anxiety, I will forever adore Shy, by Deborah Freedman. Not only is it a story so many kids relate to, but it’s unique and stunning, too.
Of course! We have a list of children’s books about courage right here, so be sure to check it out.
Our Favorite Books for Kids with Anxiety
General books for kids with anxiety
Poor Potato is worried about everything! After all, how can you possibly prepare for the future when something bad might happen? Potato is convinced his friends will be able to make him feel better. Unfortunately for him, though, his gal pal can’t promise Potato that nothing bad will ever happen. What she does do, however, is remind Potato that even when they have experienced tough things, they always make it through to the other side — and have some fun along the way. For our full review of I’m Worried, click here!
We love modern updates to classic books, and in this gorgeous new edition of an old story, one little girl continually asks her mom, will it be okay? From thunder and lightning to bee stings to stage fright to death, mom continues to reassure her child that yes, it will be ok. All of it will be okay, and they will face any and all challenges that come their way together. This beautiful book for anxious kids explores common childhood fears with warmth, authenticity, and tenderness, and I can’t rave about it enough! For kids that like stories with human characters facing hard situations, this is a winner.
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Fish and Crab, two best friends, are getting ready for bed. But as they snuggle under their sheets, Fish has trouble falling asleep, and his mind starts racing. What’s that noise? What if aliens abduct them? What if a black hole opens up underneath them? Not only will this adorable story make kids laugh out loud, but it’s a fabulous book about friendship and one that helps children realize they are never alone with their big emotions and fears. Racing thoughts – even irrational ones – are extremely common, and sometimes just speaking them aloud to a loved one helps. Not only will this fun story offer a springboard for discussion, but it will have your kids laughing through their nerves, too.
Pi loves music, his dog, and his friends, just like other robots! When their teacher announces a class trip to Silicon Valley, Pi is super excited — until, that is, they start to think about all the things that could potentially go wrong on the trip. As Pi begins to worry, they begin to feel some zaps. Will Pi’s nerves break through their firewall and get the best of them? How can Pi calm their worries and get rid of the zaps? We love how these fun robots tackle a common anxiety-producing situation and provide kids with coping strategies, too.
Books about being scared of the dark
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 of books for kids with anxiety – especially those children who fear the dark. For our full review of Orion and the Dark, click the link!
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.
Books about monsters
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 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. Sam then goes against the grain, behaving in a way that bucks the norm for monsters, and the result is simply fantastic. I love how this book challenges the way 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. For our full review of Leonardo the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems, click here!
Fear of Making Mistakes
If you have a child that is a perfectionist, whether it comes to school, 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 the author 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!
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!
I fell in love with this book the second I saw it because I knew it was going to resonate perfectly with my boys. 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 kids with anxiety because it helps 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!
Fear of being different
This is one of my favorite books to read aloud at school because it is a hit every single time. In the busy city, there are dogs galore. But, unfortunately for one of them, she just doesn’t fit in, no matter how hard she tries. She’s different from the others, sporting rainbow attire in stark contrast to everyone else’s gray, and she heads left when the others turn right. One day this odd dog decides to head elsewhere to find out where she belongs. While she’s gone, she realizes that sometimes it takes fitting in with the crowd to see the power of blazing your own trail. In LOVE with this one!
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 a 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 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!
Fear of heights
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!
This brilliant book for kids with anxiety 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 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 the unknown
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, his emotional confusion, and the reward he finds when he ultimately feels safe enough to let go. I dare any parent to read this without crying!
Scaredy Squirrel is so scared of his surroundings, he won’t ever leave his tree and sticks closely to his routine. He has backup 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 around them, but if they let go just a 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!
Fear of starting school
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 an attempt to hide. But then some company arrives, 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!
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 the story 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. As their words fill the air, shared sentiments become bridges to building connections. A breathtaking read, both in pictures and prose. For our full review of The Day You Begin, click here!
Fear of separation
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, about a little raccoon on his way to school for the first time, 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 of The Kissing Hand here.
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 it’s 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.
Social anxiety and fear of making friends
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!
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!
Fear of speaking up
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 the 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!
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!
Fear of bullies or having no friends
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. It helps kids understand what it means to be a good friend, too. For our full review of One, click here!
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 storms
I am in love with this book, to the point that its 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.
Fear of swimming
If your kids are hesitant to jump into the water, this story is a must. One little girl happens to get a stomach ache 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.
When Lottie goes to swimming 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
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 his very top choice. For our full review of Hannah and Sugar, click here!
Fear of strangers or bad things happening
The world can be big and scary, with some people that don’t make the best choices. But most people smile, 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.
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 story does just that, making it a powerful book for kids with anxiety!