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Giving Back to the Community as a Literacy Tutor

Many homeschooling parents are quite active in their communities during the holidays, but have you thought about how you can use your very specific skill set as a reading instructor to benefit other children in your neighborhood? The holidays are a perfect time to offer your assistance to other parents in your community who are experiencing difficulties in getting their children to read at their appropriate grade level. If you’ve already had quite a bit of success in teaching your children how to read, perhaps you should offer a literacy “short course” to local children who are home on vacation.

According to the Reading Research Quarterly, there are two important strategies to use during a short-term tutoring relationship with a child. First, use texts that introduce high-frequency vocabulary gradually and with repetition through the use of common spelling patterns. We can recommend a variety of leveled readers that follow this method. Second, use activities that implement direct letter-sound instruction. If you’ve been following a phonics program that uses research from the National Reading Panel, you and your child are already reaping the benefits of this type of instruction.

One of the keys to this type of tutoring is verbal instruction techniques. You’ll need to “scaffold” both reading and writing skills by using one to enhance the other. Since you only have a short time to work with these children, it’s important to place equal time on reading and writing and be deliberate when you show the tutored child how one is related to the other. Then you’ll need to focus, through verbal exercises, on how to read and spell unknown words. Remember when your own child learned how to read? He wasn’t memorizing existing words–he was learning decoding skills that allowed him to figure out almost every single word that came his way from that point on.

You only have a short time with these children, so don’t expect to perform miracles. If you stay focused on these basics, you might just have a breakthrough that will allow these children to return to the classroom in January with more effective decoding skills. Their teachers, their parents and your community will thank you for this valuable service!

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