Your summer is booked with water park visits and popsicle breaks. If practicing the ABC’s and 1-2-3’s hasn’t made it on your list, don’t worry. Your little Einstein can catch up on the fundamentals — and learn cool new skills, too — at local tutoring centers. Friendly study halls across Chicago and the ‘burbs sharpen noggins in bright, fun ways. Before school is back in session, brush up at these favorites that have programming tailored to the preschool, kindergarten and elementary school crowd.


Bright Kids Chicago
This spot helps kids before they’re even old enough to know what a No. 2 pencil is. Pre-K/Kindergarten readiness programs for kids ages 3 ½ to 6 build fine motor skills (drawing, using scissors) and work on basics like colors, numbers, letters, phonics and math. They’ll even get schooled in sharing and parent separation anxiety. Another plus: Tutors are all Illinois State certified teachers.

725 W. Wrightwood Ave.
Lincoln Park

Achieve Learning Center
All of the tutors here are certified teachers. The elementary school program focuses on reading, math and study skills. The reading and math programs are designed around a set of ordered skills which the students tackle progressively to achieve better comprehension and basic skills in each. (Students who devote 48 hours of instruction over a period of four months can improve up to one full grade level.)

191 Waukegan Rd., Ste. 206


Math is a four-letter word to plenty of kids, and the start of a new school year can bring on the dread. The credo at Mathnasium is “students don’t hate math; they hate not understanding math.” Young learners are taught core math concepts to prep them for school, while elementary school students start by taking an assessment test to tailor a program that either fills in the gaps or helps them jump ahead, depending on their skill level.

19 area locations, including:
1444 W. Fullerton Ave.
Lincoln Park

Sylvan Learning
This tutoring chain creates a personalized learning plan for each child in math, reading, writing and study skills, as well as homework help once school is underway. The SylvanSync digital tutoring program uses iPads as interactive teaching tools.

19 area locations, including
723 W. Maxwell St.
University Village


The Kumon Method, a math and reading program taught worldwide, is less about tutoring and more about teaching academic skills that help students become self learners. This fairly rigorous program requires students to complete Kumon worksheets, which are daily assignments that take 30 minutes per subject, per day. Two are done at the center and five are done at home, so parents that like to be involved will appreciate this program.

16 area locations, including:
1440 N. Dayton St.
Lincoln Park

Varsity Tutors
This biz lets the learning come to you. Starting with kindergarteners, Varsity Tutors provides one-on-one, in-home tutoring in any subject area (usually math, reading and phonics for the elementary school set) so kids can grow skills in the comfort of their own home.


Language Stars
Perfect for the kid starting an immersion program or just needing a gentle entry back into learning mode, Language Stars is a play-based, full-immersion language program that uses games, art projects and music to reinforce language structure and conversational basics. Choose from Spanish, Mandarin, French, Italian or German; classes available for kids aged 3-5, 5-8 and 8-10.

14 area locations, including:
5500 Woodlawn Ave.
Hyde Park

Learning Rx
More brain training than tutoring, this program claims to raise IQ and improve memory. Each student works with a personal trainer over 12 to 32 weeks to help with learning skills and improve attention, memory and reasoning. Although designed for any student of any skill level, the program can be of particular help to kids with autism, ADHD, dyslexia and other learning difficulties.

630 E. Ogden Ave.

This nationwide tutoring chain starts each student with a test of academic strengths and weaknesses. For young kids, that means reading, math and hand-to-eye coordination. Then tutors create a customized study plan. Subject areas include reading, writing, phonics, spelling, vocabulary, math and study skills. Most outposts maintain a four-to-one student/tutor ratio to balance instruction and independent work.

19 area locations, including:
654 Busse Highway
Park Ridge

Have you ever tried a tutoring center to give your kid a boost? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Rebecca Little

Photos: Courtesy of Bright Kids Chicago, Mathnasium, Kumon