How Parents Can Be a Reading Tutor at Home

How Parents Can Be a Reading Tutor at Home

Many parents have likely found themselves juggling multiple roles during the pandemic. Not only did parents have to work their typical 9-to-5 jobs, but they were also full-time caregivers and teachers, too. With only 24-hours in one day, getting it all done—and doing everything well—wasn’t easy.

During at-home virtual learning, some parents might have noticed their children struggling to read or having difficulty with other subjects. While piling on one more role for already overwhelmed parents is in no way ideal, serving as a reading tutor at home isn’t so difficult. In fact, parents can use fun strategies in their reading tutor role.

Here are 10 ways to help children with reading at home…even if kids don’t like to read!

1. Read together.

Younger children might enjoy having parents join in on the reading. Parents and children can alternate reading roles during nightly storytime. Parents read a page then the child reads a page. Parents can help children with pronunciation or identifying tricky words. Parents also should inflict emotion while reading and they can encourage children to do this, too.

Children who are reading chapter books might read a chapter out loud or silently. Parents can reread that chapter to their child (for repetition).

2. Talk to children during the story.

When reading to or with children, parents may ask questions about the characters and the plot of the story. Focus on the ‘wh’ questions related to comprehension: who, what, where, when, why and how. See if children can summarize key story details after each chapter or at the end of the book.

Talking about the story helps to gauge understanding. If children struggle to remember details, try breaking the text into smaller chunks. Talk about each smaller detail of the story, instead of an entire chapter.  Each child is different, so parents might need to figure out what strategies work best for their child.


3. Make a comprehension or retelling bookmark.

Get crafty and have a child create a comprehension or retelling bookmark. Use cardstock for the bookmark and have your child write comprehension prompts on their bookmark. Prompts can include:

  • Who are the main characters?
  • What are the characters doing? What is happening in the story?
  • Where does the story take place?
  • When does the story take place? Or when does the event take place?
  • Why do you think… (this prompt may change with each story)
  • How do you think of the character… (again, the question may change for each book)

Prompts simply give children a reminder to think about the book. So changing prompts like “how do you think the character…” is meant to make children consistently think about the character’s feelings or motivations.

For more ideas on what questions to use for comprehension bookmarks, parents also can drop a note to teachers. This Reading Mama offers a different take on comprehension bookmarks that focus more on broader ideas for children to think about while reading.

4. Create a reading habit.

Carve out a specific time for reading. Maybe this is before bed or right after school. Turn reading into a daily habit. Parents should read, too. When children see parents reading, they may view reading as fun or entertaining.

Parents may set an hour for reading; during the first half-hour, they may read with kids and guide them. The second half may be for allowing kids (and parents) to read solo. For children who have difficulty reading, perhaps they are allowed to read an easier book during independent reading.

Some parents might not have an entire hour to devote to reading time. They might be able to sit with children and read together for a half-hour. Parents should set a schedule that’s reasonable and that works for them. Reading time shouldn’t be stressful.

How Parents Can Be a Reading Tutor at Home

5. Build a reading habitat.

Make reading fun and memorable by creating a reading habitat for kids. A reading habitat can turn reading into an adventure! Parents can build an easy reading for using two chairs with a blanket draped on top. Or stack mounds of pillows for a massive cushy reading nest. A reading habitat also could be a small tent pitched in the basement.  Get creative…and maybe grab a flashlight for extra reading luminescence, too!

6. Get active with reading activities.

Reading doesn’t have to just include books. Parents can use other activities to encourage children to read. Cook with children and ask them to read the ingredients. Take children on a vocabulary word scavenger hunt; grab a list of their sight words or other vocabulary words and encourage kids to find the words at the store or during errands. Children also can play board games that encourage them to create words.

How Parents Can Be a Reading Tutor at Home

7. Immerse in the story.

Talking about the book, reading together, and creating reading habits are important. However, some activities don’t necessarily help with reading but may get kids excited about the book. These immersive activities help bring the story to life.

After reading a book or story, take children on a reading field trip. Visit a place featured in the story; if the character loved outer space, visit a planetarium. Online resources also can help children jump into the book. Even if parents can’t visit a landmark in another country, there may be a virtual tour offered online. Take kids on a virtual field trip!

Some books feature really unique foods, savory dinners or even decadent desserts. Ask children what the characters ate in the book. Were any foods memorable? Hunt down recipes or look for those foods at the grocery store and let kids sample their storybook cuisine. This may help kids expand their palate while immersing in the story.

Watching a movie based on the book also can help children visualize the action. Find out if the book was adapted for the big screen. Watch the movie together and talk about how the book and movie differed. What did your child like best—the book or the movie?

8. Try not to stress about the time.

Many schools set mandated reading minutes for kids. This is to encourage regular reading and to instill a habit of reading. Some kids may stress out over the time, or parents may feel the need to monitor the minutes like a hawk. If kids read an hour one day and less another, the minutes will balance out. And if parents are already setting a reading time each day, then the child should meet the minutes without a problem.

How Parents Can Be a Reading Tutor at Home

9. Make sure kids read at the right level.

As a ‘reading tutor,’ parents should ensure that kids are reading at the right level. Books that are too easy won’t challenge a child, while books that are too difficult may frustrate them. Talk to a child’s teacher to find out a child’s reading level, and have children choose books at their level.

10. Use a reading app.

No time to tutor at home? An online reading app can provide one-on-one tutoring when parents are crunched for time. Readability includes a built-in AI reading assistant that provides help during lessons. If children are stuck on a word or stumble, they can ask the reading tutor for help. The built-in tutor also asks questions related to comprehension after each story. Children don’t advance in the program until they demonstrate proficiency at the current level.


Readability also features colorful illustrations and interactive stories to keep children engaged. Parents can use the Parent Dashboard to better understand their child’s progress and to see how long their child used the program.

While parents are juggling multiple roles at home—especially if kids are still learning virtually—they may also find that children need them to be a reading tutor, too. However, there are many creative ways that parents can help children read at home, including immersive activities and even games. For parents who don’t have the time to help their struggling readers, a reading app like Readability can be used to help children become more confident and proficient.

Ameeta Jain

My latest project is truly where my happy place is, helping children. I’m a mom to two amazing souls who are my inspiration to be better, do better and strive for more. As a technology entrepreneur, I’ve had the privilege to contribute to the advancement of humanity through tech.

My passion has always been to ensure the end user of our products enjoys huge benefits. We are taking the world of education by storm with industry first reading and comprehension learning technology that levels the playing field for all kids. With over 20 years of tech experience and an army of child development professionals, reading specialists, and experts in education, I created Readability.