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Female tutor working on-on-one with an elementary student on reading

Tutoring and Volunteering

Tips for Reading Tutors

The U.S. Department of Education developed this brief guide for reading tutors. It lists ways that tutoring helps both the learner and the tutor, and provides practical tips that can help tutors be more effective in their work.

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Reading is the basis for learning and school success. While reading is learned primarily in the classroom, many students need extra time and help. Research shows that tutoring is a great way for individuals and groups outside school to support learning. Effective tutoring requires appropriate training and careful planning. This guide presents some basic tips for reading tutors.

How tutoring helps

For the learner

  • Creates a more favorable atmosphere for learning (particularly through the use of one-on-one instruction)
  • Provides more time on task, increased opportunities to read and immediate feedback
  • Allows for immediate, positive and corrective feedback to help the learner stay on track and not repeat errors
  • Can increase reading performance
  • Can improve motivation and decrease frustration
  • Enhances interpersonal skills as a bond is established with the tutor
  • Allows for individual monitoring of progress to ensure that learning is taking place

For the tutor

  • Establishes important skills such as patience, trustworthiness, and responsibility
  • Provides an opportunity for community service
  • Enhances interpersonal skills
  • Increases the tutor’s own reading performance as a result of tutoring

Tips for reading tutors

Be positive.
Praise goes a long way with learners who struggle in reading. Provide positive feedback when correct responses are made (“Great! The word is Sequoia.”).

Be attentive.
Stop learners immediately after an error. Show them what to do and provide them an opportunity to do it correctly (“That word is ‘trouble.’ What word is this?”). Try not to use the word “no.”

Be precise.
Provide clear and direct instructions (“Say this word” rather than “Would you say it?”).

Be mindful of mistakes made during the session.
Record learner performance. Review anything that learners miss. Remember, learners “should say it like they know it.”

Be diligent.
Work from the beginning to the end of the tutoring session.

Be innovative.
Keep tutoring sessions lively and dynamic.

Be focused.
Try to ignore minor misbehavior. Only recognize good behavior.

Be patient.
Show learners that you care about them through your commitment and encouragement.

Be on time.
Arrive at least 15 minutes before the tutoring session begins. Make sure plans for the session and materials are ready so the session may begin as soon as the student arrives.

Be committed.
Once you have begun to tutor a student, remain with that student throughout the year.

Be results-oriented.
Gather learner performance data on a daily basis, and chart the data (using graphs, stars, etc.) to allow a visual display of improvements made in the program.


The U.S. Department of Education. (2004). Tips for Reading Tutors. Washington, DC: Author.

You are welcome to print copies for non-commercial use, or a limited number for educational purposes, as long as credit is given to Reading Rockets and the author(s). For commercial use, please contact the author or publisher listed.