Today we discussed what is worrisome to students about my class. We discussed feeling like they aren't good writers, or being concerned that the won't be able to keep up with the reading, or that the reading won't be interesting, or that they'll struggle with analysis.
Essentially, what I shared with them is that we're in this together. I let them know that I don't expect they're perfect writers right now - if they were, why would we need school? Also, I'm a slow reader, and so we aren't going to move at a break-neck pace on the books. IF the books are boring (I don't think they are!) then we'll be in this together, and have to struggle through it as a group.
It seemed to help put their minds at ease a bit. After that, I let them have time to work on their homework for the weekend.