Schmoker Reading Center’s transition to online tutoring no problem for nine-year-old Ruby


A screenshot from the Zoom tutoring session with Ruby, her mom and her tutor, Monica.

Schmoker Reading Center’s transition to online tutoring no problem for nine-year-old Ruby

27 Aug 2020    By Kelcey Buck

Ruby had enjoyed positive experiences while being tutored twice before at the Kit and Dick Schmoker Reading Center on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus. When Jenny Leeper Miller asked her daughter whether she’d like to be tutored again in the summer of 2020, Ruby was eager to go. After her mom told her this time the tutoring would be through Zoom, however, Ruby had second thoughts. 

“She was hesitant at first but that completely changed when we met (her tutor) Monica,” Leeper Miller said. “I was astounded by the fact that Monica began by building a relationship with Ruby. She took time to learn about Ruby and integrate that into the hour time they were together each day working on reading, writing and fluency. Within two sessions, Ruby would wake up at 6 a.m. asking if it was time for tutoring.” 

Ruby wasn’t the only one hesitant about the shift to virtual tutoring. 

“Ruby struggles with staying attentive and I thought managing that over Zoom might be an issue so I was nervous at the beginning,” Leeper Miller said. “But in those first couple sessions, I observed Monica’s skills of being able to keep her on task. I could tell I wasn’t needed, so after that I was able to get them started and then let Ruby have her one-on-one time with Monica. I think that helped Ruby build confidence by allowing her to relax and focus on her skills during their sessions.” 

When asked about her favorite aspects of the Zoom tutoring, Ruby was quick to highlight the fact she and Monica shared a love of dogs. 

“(My favorite part was) that I got to be with Monica because she likes puppies too. We got to read ‘Maxi’s Secrets: (Or, What You Can Learn from a Dog)’ and then my mom bought the book when we were done with tutoring so I could keep on reading it.” 

Leeper Miller also appreciated the connection she made with Monica over the course of the summer as the two had short conversations at the end of each day.

“When I was sitting in those first few sessions, I learned so much,” Leeper Miller said. “I felt like I was being coached on how to support Ruby when I read to her. She offered good suggestions of how to integrate what they were doing in tutoring into what we were doing at home.” 

As the Schmoker Reading Center prepares for virtual tutoring again this fall, Leeper Miller offered her advice to parents for making it a successful experience. 

“Find a space in the environment where the parent and child can have uninterrupted time to focus on the tutoring session. Let the child choose the space if you can. That was really empowering for Ruby because it’s not often they get to make the choice of where they’re learning. Sit in on some of the sessions because you can learn so much just from listening. And be flexible, especially when it comes to technology.” 

The fall tutoring session at the Kit and Dick Schmoker Reading Center begins Sept. 7, and is open to students across the state in second through 12th grades who are reading below grade level and whose primary difficulties in school result from reading problems. Tutoring, which is provided by Husker students, is held twice a week for 60-minutes each day. Participants may choose Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning at 4:15 p.m. or 5:45 p.m. Cost is $200 for the fall session, which runs through Nov. 12. Click here for more information about the Schmoker Reading Center. Click here to complete the online application for the fall.


Special Education and Communication Disorders
College of Education and Human Sciences