My kid needs some extra help with reading and writing. Should I consider sending her to a private tutor/after school program?


Dan Edmonds, Noodle VP of research and longtime reading and writing tutor.

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Both tutoring and after school programs are certainly useful ways to help a child who has a specific, identifiable academic weakness. First, you want to answer a couple of questions for yourself.

  1. What is the goal of the tutoring/enrichment you seek for your child? Are you looking for an improvement in grades? For the child to become more engaged as a reader/writer? Make sure you come to any potential provider with as clear a picture as you can of what you hope to achieve with their help, including a clear idea of the timeline you have in mind for improvement.

  2. What is your budget? Tutoring, though often highly effective, can also be extremely expensive, and the best after-school and enrichment programs aren't cheap either. Have a clear idea what you can reasonably spend before you start your search.

Once you've answered those questions, I'd advise trying to find tutors, tutoring centers, and enrichment programs that are in your price range. Our search will allow you to find reading tutors near you; you should talk to potential tutors about how they would approach the problems your child has, their availability, etc. A good tutor will work with you to build a plan and will set clear expectations of how the process will move forward.

Many tutoring centers offer diagnostic tests that will isolate your child's particular problem areas, and will build a practice plan around those problem areas; some tutors have the tools to perform a similar analysis.

As for tutoring versus enrichment, consider our article on Tutoring vs. Enrichment Classes: Which One is Better?.

If you want to share more specifics on your child's particular problems (including grade level and the specific problems you're hoping to tackle), I'd be happy to try to get more specific in my advice.

Good luck!

Yamini Pathak, Yamini Pathak is co-founder of K-12 Education resources website Schools 'N More

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Hello. My suggestion is to first have a conversation with your child's teacher about your concerns. The teacher can guide you about how best to help your child. Quite often, a little additional effort at home such as reading with your child or having discussions about reading/writing assignments at home can go a long way towards improving your child's performance. I'm not sure how old your child is - one of these articles can help you with some things you can do at home to help develop reading skills before you consider tutoring options: How to Improve Reading Comprehension for Elementary Schoolers or 5 Steps to Improve your High Schooler's Reading Comprehension.

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Brittney Miller, Graduate student instructor, gifted education instructor

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I agree with several of the answers here. I too suggest talking to your child's teacher first about your concerns and what steps are necessary to get your child on track. Before jumping into tutoring or after school programs to rectify the situation, you should spend that time with your child to get a better understanding of what he/she is struggling with and helping him/her yourself before using other resources (like money and time).

M. Erez Kats, Seattle Language Arts Teacher

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Hello - yes, I think it is almost always beneficial for students, especially if they are struggling or having any types of problems in reading or understanding any material, to get some extra help to assist in pinpointing, narrowing down and focusing on the things they can do better or improve upon. Often times, tutors are the ones, because they have the time to go over things with a student one-on-one (something a classroom teacher often does not have time to do), who can really make a difference and help students improve. They can look up vocabulary words or explain sentences or figurative language, etc. that students don't understand, and they can answer any larger questions about plot and characters in books. Similarly, with writing, this may be the most helpful because they can help correct students' grammar and spelling errors, and also help them reword or structure essays differently so that they can hone their skills and develop their style as a writer. This can be very difficult to do on their own if not given the proper guidance. Also, working with a tutor can often be a more relaxing and quiet time for students, one in which they can really focus on what they are reading or writing, and talk freely with tutors about issues that they would otherwise be afraid or unlikely to talk about in class. So I definitely think if this option is available to you - it would be a great idea.

Sarah Rivera, Talk with the teacher first!

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Tutoring is a reach for most families financially and also in terms of weekly time commitment. But it can be just what is needed to get a kid out of an educational trough, in terms of going over basics and class lessons and helping your child organize workflow and gain confidence.

Find a tutor that works for your child and his or her needs. Ask to meet with the tutor and your child and give an example of the homework and see how they work together.

Don't be too quick to hire a tutor before talking with your child's teacher extensively. This is going to seem really basic, but take notes during the meeting with the teacher and be very clear about what your child needs to work on and set goals. Set some goals and make sure that you don't just say goodbye at the end of talking with the teacher. Say "May I check back with you in two weeks to go over my child's progress?"

Matthew Clemens, Physics and Math Teacher, Parent, and Tutor

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I agree with these answers about ensuring that writing and reading are cultivated. Those two skills are crucial in my Physics classes, so I commend you for thinking about the issue now. Are there ways to use resources in your community? Have you spoken with her guidance counselor? There might be some other options than one on one tutoring, though that option is often the best since the child gets complete attention.

Stacey Ebert, Educator, Writer, Event Planner, Traveler

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Great question. I'm sorry to hear that your child is struggling, but know that there are many resources at your disposal for success. Some things to consider are how your child learns best, what can you and your child do at home to assist the process and what type of setting might best suit the needs of your child. Students can thrive in both of the situations you suggested (private tutoring or after school program), some of their success might depend on who they are, how they learn best, where they learn best and whether that's a group or individual setting.

Keep in mind that your school district might offer either one on one or after school programs for little/no fees that might be a good place to start. Depending on the age of your child, there are some great online resources available as well. You might also want to seek out the assistance of your local library to see what they can offer and suggest to best assist your needs. Practicing reading and writing of any kind are great learning tools-whether that's taking a stroll around the neighborhood and reading street signs, helping to cook dinner and trying to read ingredients or writing his/her own stories or thoughts down in some form of journal. Once you and your child assess how he/she learns best and what the specific needs are that you're looking for out of these programs, your decision will be easier. Either way, your little one will get the help he/she needs to be successful.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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If you see issues with these two skills, now is the time to seek help. Classes are overcrowded and teachers have too many students to do specific skill based work that a tutor or after school program can offer to your child. Because these two skills are the cornerstone of academic success, getting your child support now is crucial.
If you do hire a tutor and budget is a concern, see if you can sit in on a session or two so perhaps you can reinforce the skills and need to hire the tutor for fewer hours. A good tutor can target issues very quickly and help. Don't be afraid to ask and pay for a family session to help you give her a good sense of what your child needs.
And if I may, I suggest you work with your child on reading what interests her/him. Any reading is better than no reading. Your child doesn't need to be reading "the classics." Comic books, graphic novels, magazines--anything!--gets your child more comfortable with the written word. Same with writing. A journal. A notebook. And if your child sees you writing, he/she might write more. I hope that you are able to find something that works for your family!

Lindsey Lipsky, Special Educator, Trainer and Education Consultant

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Hello! I think it is fabulous that you are concerned about your child's progress and want to seek extra support. Some things to think about when looking for a tutor:

  1. What exactly are the problem areas your child is having? It's always good to have some identifiable goals first and foremost. What is your child excelling at? What are his/her weaknesses? A good tutor will be able to help guide you into identifying specific areas of weakness in reading/writing.

  2. See if the tutor can also consult with the public school. Many times a classroom teacher is overwhelmed with the amount of work, differentiation, lessons and needs in a traditional classroom. However, if the teacher is open to a partnership with the tutor or tutoring agency, that can help tremendously outside of tutoring time.

  3. Set a goal and length of time to track progress. Since tutoring can often times cost a lot of money, be sure to set a time-limit to check on how your child is progressing. Request feedback and a way to track reading/writing progress, either through increases in foundational phonics skills, reading comprehension or personal enhancements like increased self-esteem or motivation for reading.

Be sure to research the tutor or tutoring center fully, making sue to check the background and qualifications of any tutor working with your child. For a great list of questions and steps to finding the right tutor, read this article "Four Steps to Finding an Excellent Tutor for Your Child" by Reading Rockets:

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