There is much debate on the topic of whether parents make good tutors.
A study published by former Duke University researchers found that parents do not make good tutors for their middle school students for the following reasons:
1) the parents are unfamiliar with the academic content
2) the students want independence from their parents and are less open to academic support
Nancy Hill, a researcher in the study, said that because poor grades often serve as the impetus for parental tutoring there is a correlation between parental involvement and a decrease in academic achievement. It makes you wonder had the parents provided tutoring before the poor grades emerged would there be a different effect. Poor grades in middle school are often the result of a student’s poor reading skills. What if the parent had provided reading tutoring in the early elementary grades when the student stood a much better chance of developing into a competent reader?
A very small study conducted in 1979 looked at whether parents of first-grade students could affect positive reading growth in their children after nine weeks of tutoring. Parents received three hours’ of training in tutoring techniques. It is unclear what those techniques were. The students who received tutoring from their parents made no significant growth in reading skills compared to the students in the control group.
However, another researcher found parents of third-grade students were effective tutors of oral reading techniques. Parents received six hours’ of training and materials for tutoring. In a survey that was part of the study, parents stated that the school should help parents find ways to boost their children’s reading achievement. My conclusion is that parents are more willing to tutor if support and training by qualified educators is available.
I argue that parents make good tutors when they start tutoring their children when they are in kindergarten through second grade. Why?
1. The child, if delayed in or struggling with literacy, is not that far behind grade level.
2. Most early elementary children still have a positive attitude toward learning and school.
3. The child is more open to receiving support from their parents (than at an older age).
4. The child’s brain and learning pathways remain very pliable. Consequently, it is easier to learn to read well (aka efficiently) when in the early elementary years.
Ultimately, for parents to make good tutors, they must be provided with appropriate materials and trained how to use them. Additionally, they need to be able to receive feedback from a qualified educator. The hardest challenge for parents wanting to tutor their children is knowing where to begin. To really contribute to your child’s reading development, you need to find a reading specialist who can serve as your mentor.
Hill NE, Tyson DF. Parental involvement in middle school: A meta-analytic assessment of the strategies that promote achievement. Developmental Psychology. 2009;45:740–763.
Jacobowitz, SE. Tutoring by Parents of Their Children in First Grade. M.Ed Thesis at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. 1979.
MacDonald CA, Parents as tutors of their own children: Effects of reading strategies on third-grade students. January 1, 1994. Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. Paper AAI9434509.