Child Shyness and Reading Ability in Encounters with Difficult Words During Shared Book Reading

  • Mary Ann EvansEmail author
  • Kailey Pearl Ennis
Part of the International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development book series (CHILD, volume 17)


This study investigated the association of children's shyness and their ability to read words with parent and child behaviours when children encounter difficult words during book reading. Grade one children and their parents were observed reading storybooks together that the child could read with assistance. Children’s shyness and their ability to decode unfamiliar nonwords (a measure of reading ability) were also assessed by the researchers. When reading the books with their parents, shyer children and poorer readers less often attempted to read words that they found difficult. Parents of shyer children and of less skilled readers responded to this and other reading errors by providing more context cues and fewer encouragements to try the word again. Parents also more often simply told shyer children the word, and offered poorer readers less assistance to help them decode the word using graphophonemic clues. In addition, boys more frequently guessed at difficult words, while girls were more likely to pause or request assistance. However parent behaviour did not differ for boys and girls. The findings demonstrate a new facet of the way in which inhibition in shy children and protective parenting of them are manifested, and suggests a mechanism for the negative association between shyness and academic achievement found in previous studies. The findings also highlight the need for teachers and parents to be more reflective in their book reading interactions with shy children. Suggestions for working with shy children are provided.


Word Reading Reading Skill Reading Ability Book Reading Decode Skill 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Thank you is extended to the families for their participation in this study and the school boards in which they were enrolled for their support. Appreciation is also extended to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for its grant to the first author to fund this research, and to research assistants Kate Spere, Jubilea Mansell and Diana Audet for their assistance with data collection.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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