The effect of reading anxiety on secondary school children’s reading and math performance

The effect of reading anxiety on secondary school children’s reading and math performance

First Author: Megan Bird -- University of Oxford
Additional authors/chairs: 
Rachel Maddox; Yaling Hsiao; Kate Nation
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Whilst many studies have explored the effect of maths anxiety on academic performance, those exploring the effect of reading anxiety are lacking. We designed a novel reading anxiety measure and explored its relation to academic performance. We also investigated gender and age related differences.

Method: 75 11-13 year olds completed assessments of reading and maths alongside a 45-item questionnaire measuring reading anxiety, maths anxiety, and general anxiety. The latter two measures were constructed using existing anxiety scales, whilst the reading anxiety measure was adapted from existing maths anxiety scales. Items were answered on a 3-point scale and were designed to tap children’s fear, worry, dislike and lack of confidence in the three areas.

Results: There was no difference between girls and boys performance on the reading and maths test. There was also no difference in reading anxiety, however girls exhibited higher maths anxiety and general anxiety. Younger children exhibited higher reading anxiety but no age-related differences were found in the other two measures. All of the anxiety measures were positively correlated with each other. There was a reliable negative correlation between reading anxiety and both reading and maths performance. Furthermore, there was a reliable negative correlation between maths anxiety and maths performance.

Conclusion: Our findings replicate the maths anxiety and performance link previously found. We found evidence for a similar link between reading anxiety and reading performance. There was no relationship between general anxiety and reading performance, suggesting academic anxiety is not simply a reflection of general anxiety.