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Choosing a Reading Tutor

Guest Author - Heidi Shelton Jenck

Finding a tutor for a child or teen is an important decision. By the time tutoring is considered, children are often falling behind in schoolwork. They may lack confidence in their ability to ever catch up with their peers, and suffer from low self-esteem. Choosing a tutor is like finding an excellent coach; the tutor should not only quickly build reading skills, but also help increase your child’s confidence and willingness to work hard to improve as a student.

Before you begin searching for a tutor, determine what your child needs. If you already have an evaluation report specifying your child’s weak areas, search for someone with those specific skills. It’s okay to begin a search without knowing specifically what your child needs. Many qualified tutors conduct an informal assessment to help nail down exactly what to focus on during tutoring sessions.

How do you find a tutor? Reading tutors can be found by doing some research on your own. Check out the resources below, ask other parents for referrals, and use the internet to help you in your search.

  • Tutoring Centers are listed in the phone book and online. Some tutoring centers have a lower-cost small group option. Others offer online tutoring in your home.

  • School districts often maintain a list of approved tutors. Many are retired certified teachers from the district. Contact the school counseling office or academic dean.

  • Use the internet to search for reading tutors in your community. Many communities offer a clearinghouse website for tutors to advertise themselves, allowing you to “shop” for a private tutor.

  • Local colleges and universities often have a reading clinic or tutoring center. This can be a low-cost or free option that also offers additional resources for a child with complex needs.

  • Educational psychologists often provide a list of recommended tutors. If your child has a private evaluation, ask about local tutors who are highly trained in the specific areas of need.

  • Talk to friends and neighbors. Use social networking. The perfect tutor for your child might be a stay-at-home parent who happens to be a certified and trained reading specialist. Neighborhood tutors often advertise simply through word-of-mouth since they want to maintain a small client base.

Once you have created a list of possible tutors, take time to ask each person some important questions. Tutoring can be expensive and time-consuming. Once a child begins seeing a tutor they are already behind in schoolwork. You don’t want to waste months with a tutor who isn’t a good match for your child.

  • Look for someone who has a strong reading background, not just a teaching degree or experience working in schools. Reading includes phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency. You want to hire a person with skills and strategies for teaching the areas of reading your child is struggling in. Ask what training, degrees, and experiences the potential tutor has in teaching what your child needs to learn.

  • Ask about the location. Some tutors work out of their house, while others will travel to your home. Tutors also arrange convenient meeting places such as the local library.

  • If your child has a learning disability in reading, you will need to find a tutor with solid training in effective instruction. For example, if your child is reading on grade level but has tremendous difficulty with comprehension, look for someone who has training and materials to teach that reading skill. On the other hand, if your child has good comprehension, but struggles with decoding, you may want to find someone highly trained in using multisensory direct instruction techniques. Training programs for effective reading programs can be intense and lengthy. Ask potential tutors what reading training programs they have participated in, and whether they own the materials required to provide instruction.

  • Ask about payment policies, cost, and cancellation policies. Find out how long the tutor expects to work with your child before seeing any gains. Costs can vary greatly. In general, professional and highly trained tutors can charge more. Ask questions to make sure the extra cost is worth it for your child. Anyone can call themselves a tutor, and it is up to you to determine whether the person is qualified.

  • Find out how the tutor keeps track of progress. If you want to see progress reports, ask whether the tutor provides feedback to parents. Some tutors work with a child’s classroom teacher to support and strengthen learning.

  • Match teaching methods and personality to your child. You want a tutoring situation your child enjoys and wants to return to week after week. Find a person who can work with your child, and motivate them to come back and work hard during tutoring sessions.

Finding the right tutor can make a huge difference in the life of a struggling reader. Think of it as an investment in your child’s future that requires thoughtful research before jumping in. Once you find the right person, the time spent searching will be worth it.

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Content copyright © 2015 by Heidi Shelton Jenck. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Heidi Shelton Jenck. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Connie Mistler Davidson for details.


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