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Have you ever stopped to think WHY?

A child blankly stares at a book and his or her heart begins to race, shivers down the spine and is almost stuttering or mumbling words.
Can you imagine, as a teacher, calling out one of your pupils or students to solve a problem on the board and the child appears to be completely lost, staring into the air and waiting for judgment to come?

All these signs are not too farfetched. There is a word for it; and it is called PHOBIA.

Phobia is defined by Google as a type of anxiety disorder defined by a persistent, unrealistic and excessive fear of an object, person, animal or situation.
It can also be defined as  an irrational fear of something that is unlikely to cause harm. The word itself comes from the Greek word phobos, which means fear or horror.

For the purpose of the topic under consideration, I would like to focus on the following phobias:


This is an unusual phobia of books. It can be broadly defined as the fear of books, but it also refers to a fear of reading or reading out loud or in public. Many children have only a subset of this phobia, fearing textbooks or historical novels or children’s stories, rather than a fear of all books.

A child may have been ostracized in childhood for not reading adequately or forced to read before you were proficient, so the fear is associated with a lack of control over reading material which has created your aversion and resulted in anxiety surrounding books.

Cause: it may arise if a child has an existing reading disability in which case, he is predisposed to becoming nervous when confronted with having to read, especially in front of others.

Treatment: the only cure is for the affected child to be taught new ways of thinking about books, and encouraged to read a few pages at a moderate pace. At no time should that child be forced to progress at a faster pace than he is comfortable with.

Logophobia, also known as Verbophobia (from the Greek lógos, “word”) is the fear of words. This fear typically originates from childhood, where the frequency of learning new words can cause distress and dread.

Cause: it might be caused by frustration from frequent misspellings, such as might occur in a spelling bee.

Symptoms: it include breathlessness, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, feeling sick, shaking, heart palpitations, inability to think clearly, a sensation of detachment from reality, or a full blown anxiety attack.

Treatment: the best therapy is talking treatment, let the child feel comfortable and see reasons to not be afraid, with time, he or she will come around.

Numerophobia, also known as arithmophobia, is the fear of numbers. Most children begin to develop this fear after taking maths classes in school.
Grammaphobia is the fear of letters of the alphabet. The fear is almost exclusively suffered by young children after first learning about the letters.

Causes: Just like other phobias have their origin in traumatic events, the root cause of Arithmophobia and grammaphobia lies in a negative experience in the past. Failing or doing poorly in Math at school could lead to a permanent fear of numbers. Having been the subject of ridicule, being spanked, scolded, bullied for not having done well in math exam could also trigger it. Parents might unknowingly instill the fear of numbers in children. Statements like: “Math is hard, you will fail if you do not study” can also cause a child to fear numbers.

Treatment: Gradual exposure therapy with help of a trained practitioner can help the sufferer, it include looking at numbers, thinking about them and then progressing to solving simple to complex numerical computations. Counseling, talk therapy and hypnotherapy are some other proven remedies for overcoming these phobias.

Sophophobia is the fear of learning or of knowledge.

Causes: The major contributor is the environment in which one has grown. A child who has grown in an environment where learning is shunned because of one reason or another will develop this fear. It could also be caused by a disability, a child who suffers from dyslexia may be afraid of learning because they never understand things. Bullying in the past could also be a cause.

Treatment: teachers and parents can help the affected child by deliberately instilling confidence in the child and in no time, he or she would feel comfortable learning.

Phobias are diagnosable mental disorders. When a boy has a phobia, he will often shape his life to avoid what he considers to be dangerous. The imagined threat is greater than any actual threat posed by the cause of terror which can prevent him from functioning normally and sometimes leads to panic attacks.

Different children with different capacity to learn, as teachers and parents, we must understand this and avoid unhealthy comparison which might be deterrent to a child’s learning process.


Awolesi Omolola

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