Conquer Test Taking Anxiety: 7 Books for Kids That Ease the Pressure

Recommendations from an elementary school teacher

By Jenny Sites, publisher of Macaroni KID Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania-Stafford, Va. April 15, 2023

As an elementary school teacher and parent, I know students take a lot of tests.

I also know how stressful testing can be for teachers, staff, parents, and especially students.

Standardized testing can be the most stressful tests for kids to take. 

While as a teacher, I don’t have a choice about administering standardized tests, I do have an option about how I present it to my students. I want the students to know just how important it is to have good study habits and test-taking skills, without increasing their anxiety about test-taking.

No matter their age, elementary school students love it when we read to them, so I searched our local library for fun and encouraging books that open the door to talking about tests, reviewing testing skills, and/or reducing anxiety during test-taking.

Here are seven recommendations for books that deal with test-taking anxiety:

The Anti-Test Anxiety Society
By Julia Cook, illustrated by Anita DuFalla

From the publisher: Bertha Billingsworth (BB for short) is basically a happy person... until she has to take a test. To her, the word test stands for Terrible Every Single Time, because that's how she does on them... TERRIBLE! But BB's teacher comes to the rescue by inviting her to become a member of the Anti-Test Anxiety Society. 

Recommended reading: Grades 2-6

Big Test Jitters
By Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love

From the publisher: Mrs. Hartwell takes on a new, nervy adventure as she prepares her class to take the Big Test. Knowing they have studied and are well-prepared, she helps the students practice how to sit quietly, fill in the bubbles, and follow the directions. As her students grow increasingly anxious about the Big Test, Mrs. Hartwell realizes she has to teach the most valuable test-taking skill of all: learning to relax!

Recommended reading: Grades 1-4

The Pout-Pout Fish and the Worry-Worry Whale
By Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna

Swim along with The Pout-Pout Fish and Willa Whale as they explore the world of worry.

This book, published by Macaroni KID partner MacMillan Books, doesn't directly talk about testing, but aims to help jumpstart a conversation about feelings of anxiety and worry with young kids, while also giving them useful ways to overcome anxious moments. The story shows Mr. Fish — a Pout-Pout Fish character favorite — helping his friend with her anxiety in a gentle, encouraging, and empowering way. 

Recommended reading: Preschool-Grade 1

Testing Miss Malarkey
By Judy Finchler, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley

From the publisher: The new school year brings standardized testing to every school and Miss Malarkey's is no exception. Teachers, students, and even parents are preparing for THE TEST — and the school is in an uproar. Even though the grown-ups tell the children not to worry, they're acting kind of strange. The gym teacher is teaching stress-reducing yoga instead of sports in gym class. Parents are giving pop quizzes on bedtime stories at night. The cafeteria is serving "brain food" for lunch. 

The kids are beginning to think that maybe the test is more important than they're being led to believe. Kids and adults alike will laugh aloud as Finchler and O'Malley poke fun at the commotion surrounding standardized testing, a staple of every school's year.

Recommended reading: Grades 1-4

Henry and Mudge Take The Big Test
By Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Suçie Stevenson

From the publisher: In this 10th book in the Henry and Mudge series, Henry's big dog Mudge does not know what these words mean: Heel. Sit. Stay. Mudge needs to go to school!

Recommended reading: Preschool-Grade 3

Bad Kitty Takes the Test
By Nick Bruel

From the publisher: It's something everyone has to do at least once. Kitty is no different. In this new edition of the beloved, bestselling Bad Kitty series from author-illustrator Nick Bruel, Bad Kitty takes. . . the test!

Based on her previous bad behavior, the Society of Cat Aptitude has determined that Kitty is not only a bad kitty but a bad cat. In order to redeem her feline status, Kitty must take an aptitude test to determine if she deserves to be a cat. If she fails, she will no longer be able to be a cat. With the help of Chatty Kitty, who is the instructor at Cat School, and Uncle Murray, who thinks he's just there to renew his driver's license, Kitty learns all about being a cat and a little about herself.

Recommended reading: Grades 1-4

Wilma Jean the Worry Machine
By Julia Cook, illustrated by Anita DuFalla

From the publisher: This award-winning, fun, and humorous book, from the same author and illustrator as The Anti-Test Anxiety Society, addresses the problem of anxiety in a way that relates to children of all ages. It offers creative strategies for parents and teachers to use that can lessen the severity of anxiety. The goal of the book is to give children the tools needed to feel more in control of their anxiety. For those worries that are not in anyone's control (i.e. the weather) a worry hat is introduced. A fun read for Wilmas of all ages!

Includes a note to parents and educators with tips on dealing with an anxious child.

Recommended reading: Grades K-4

Jenny Sites is the publisher of Macaroni KID Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania-Stafford, Va.