My almost 9-year-old son is in third grade at a private school. His grades are excellent, he scored in the 96th percentile overall on his recent IOWA tests and does well in most areas. He does have a mild case of ADHD.

We had him tested this month at a learning center because we noticed he was having trouble with reading comprehension. He did well in most areas on the testing, but there was a significant problem in his reading comprehension skills. He has been having difficulty comprehending reading assignments that deal with understanding math story problems and reading a passage and answering questions.

The center laid out a tutoring plan for him that will cost in excess of $5,000. Of course we will do whatever is necessary to help our child succeed in school and life, but $5,000 is not easy to come by, especially since we pay private school tuition. Are there other tutoring options for kids with this problem? What do you think of corporate learning centers? -- Seeking Help


If children don't understand what they read, they really aren't readers. At the third-grade level, the focus is changing from learning to read to reading to learn. Your son needs to master different techniques for reading, as understanding a story is different from understanding social studies and science textbooks. Fortunately, your son is just starting the second semester of third grade and has plenty of time to pick up these skills.

Before signing up for the learning center, we would begin by seeing what help is available at his school. By law, private schools are under the umbrella of local public schools, which must provide services, if needed, to students with learning disabilities. Talk to his teachers and have him tested. If there is a significant problem, you want him to receive an IEP (Individual Education Plan). The ADHD could be contributing to his comprehension problems.

Besides pursuing help through an IEP, which may be difficult because of his high test scores, and following the suggestions of his teacher, you or a tutor could work on his comprehension. Sit down with him when he does story problems and make sure that he knows what he needs to find out to solve the problem (usually the question in the last line). Then he should tell you what information he has and how he will use it to get the answer. As far as social studies and science go, the easiest way to encourage comprehension is to teach your son how to use SQ4R. You'll find a complete explanation on our website,www.dearteacher.com. Just search for the term. It will take time to convince your son of the need to use this technique.

While learning centers can be effective, a seasoned reading tutor should be a much cheaper option. Your child's school will be able to help you find one.