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How to Interview a Reading Tutor

Updated: May 10

So, you know that your child could benefit from extra support in reading and it’s time to find a tutor. But what is a parent to do? There are so many tutors who teach so many methods—and all of them say they can help your child! And at anywhere from $100-150 a session, private tutoring is a major financial commitment for most families.

If possible, be sure to interview at least three tutors in your area. To make sure your tutor is knowledgeable about reading instruction,ask the following questions and watch out for a few red flags.

1) What do you think is the source of my child’s reading difficulties?

Red flag responses: 

“I think she just needs to build her confidence!”

“I like to work on motivation!”

Children who’ve been trying, without success, to learn to read for months or years will often have low self-esteem or appear unmotivated. Often, when a child makes progress in

reading, motivation and self-esteem improve. 

Look for a tutor who understands that......

Reading difficulties can come from weaknesses in phonemic awareness, phonics knowledge, automatic word recognition, vocabulary, or processes related to comprehension. If your reading tutor doesn’t know where the deficiency lies, they will not know how to help your child. 

In order to pinpoint the source of reading difficulties, the tutor will need specific assessments that isolate the sub-skills of reading. A tutor may conduct these themselves or ask to review assessments your child had done at school.

If a prospective tutor can pinpoint the source(s) of your child’s reading difficulties, you can ask the second question:


2) What instructional methods do you use to address that issue?

Red flag responses:

-“I teach Literacy Simplified/Wexham/Orham-Gillington.”

There are many excellent curricula out there! I use a few of them myself. However, a

knowledgeable and skilled tutor should be able to still be able to explain which features of

the curriculum will meet your child’s needs, and how. Beware of any tutor who cannot demonstrate their instructional methods. 

-“Oh, I use a mix of methods. It depends on the child.”

While children are indeed different, all children need to go through the same neurological process to read fluently. 

Look for a tutor who has specific activities that are designed to address those weaknesses. If asked, the tutor should be able to demonstrate these activities. If their approach seems excessively complicated for you, an adult who’s already a fluent reader, then it will probably be too complicated for a child who’s still learning. 

3) How will you be tracking my child's progress?

Red Flag Responses: "I will be tracking their reading levels."

Informal reading inventories, which assign children letters that supposedly signify their reading level are "as accurate as flipping a coin," in the words of Matt Burns, a researcher who studies reading assessment.

Look for a tutor who regularly tracks progress on a curriculum based measure such as DIBELS or Acadience and will give you information about your child's progress in reading sub-skills such as word attack,phonics knowledge, accuracy, and fluency.

4) What will you do if my child isn’t making progress?

Red Flag Response: “They would need more frequent sessions.”

Your child may need more frequent sessions. But it might also be that doubling down on

something that isn’t working will waste time and money.

Look for a tutor who has experience working with kids who have dyslexia, ADHD, working memory challenges and other learning differences. An ethical tutor will be transparent about your child’s progress—or lack thereof—and have a plan for seeking out guidance for challenging cases. 

5) How long does it take on average to get through your scope and sequence?

Red Flag Responses:

“It depends.”

  "[Blank Look]"

There are 44 sounds in the English language and more than two hundred letters or letter combinations that represent those sounds. A scope is which of these letters or groups of letters are taught and the sequence is the order in which they are taught. If your tutor cannot show you their scope and sequence--or worse yet, does not have one--run.

Instead, look for a tutor who can show you their scope and sequence and give you both a high-end estimate and a low-end estimate for how long it takes to get through the scope and sequence.

If it takes two years on average, to get through all of the phonics patterns covered in the program, then that’s something that families should know up front. 

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