Why You Can't Fix Reading Over the Summer
Believe it or not, summer is quickly approaching, and you have probably recently had spring conferences with your child's teacher. If your child's reading progress was brought up as a concern, and the teacher suggested summer tutoring, we want to explain why that may bridge a small gap, but not fill in the all the holes -- which then leads to continued difficulty once the bridge becomes too short for the growing gap.
Summer tutoring is a wonderful option for many students. Without the packed school day draining our kids, it is easy to get a lot of bang for your buck. Morning sessions that do not interfere with your entire day, and a fresh, not-burnt-out brain helto retain the most knowledge possible. Summer is a great time to play "catch-up" for most subjects, but reading is most likely one that might require a bit more time.
What Makes Reading Tutoring Effective?
The reason reading tutoring tends to be a bit more involved is because reading and spelling use skills that build upon previous concepts. If you do not have the previous concept mastered, then everything else that builds upon it is then impacted.
For this reason, it is often important for a reading teacher/tutor to start with a review of the most basic concepts, and move along quickly until they find any "potholes" or pieces of a concept that had not yet been mastered. By filling these gaps, we can ensure a better foundation for the more advanced skills. However, it takes time and practice to master a new concept, or to re-learn a concept that was never mastered correctly.
It is important that your tutor does not simply teach a concept one time, then move on... this is what caused the need for tutoring in the first place! Lots of different types of activities should be used to ensure the student is getting adequate practice. When we are fluent readers, we are pulling from all these concepts quickly and accurately, and that only happens when we have practiced repeatedly.
In order for a teacher to be able to accomplish this goal, they MUST be experienced with some advanced training specific to reading instruction.
The most essential thing to look for in a tutor is wide and deep knowledge about the science of reading.
If you are tempted to book with a tutor who promises or implies they can have your child reading on grade level by the end of summer, and your child is more than half a grade level behind - be wary.
What Should Reading Tutoring Look Like?
Once you have found a qualified tutor or teacher, it is important to understand what the tutoring should include so that you can ask the right questions before making a large financial decision.
Reading tutoring should be:
Systematic - have a specific scope and sequence that build upon previous concepts
Explicit - explain the rules about each concept and how to apply them
Multi-sensroy - be more than just reading and writing. It should use manipulatives, movement, color coding, etc...
It is also important that your tutor is comfortable sharing progress monitoring with you. It should not be a secret what your child is working on each day, and a brief summary of their progress is definitely not too much to ask for. Even on a daily, or at least weekly basis - this is something you should reasonably expect.
In summary, summer is a great time for student to catch-up on skills in which they may be falling behind. You can even expect to make more progress than you would during the school year because of the opportunity for more frequent tutoring and less burnout.
However, it is also important to be wary of promises for significant progress, especially related to reading, because those skills are not mastered without strategic practice over an extended amount of time.