The 10% club is knocking: Let us in!


Can we discuss the elephant in the room? Too many schools are leaving our children behind.

I’m talking about the 1 in 10 children (or more) who are dyslexic — the most common learning disability you’ll find in a typical classroom.

In Canada, numerous studies show that 90% of students are able readers. But that means 10%+ are falling through the cracks of our respected public education system. And if you’re in the 10% club* (which I’m proud to be a member of!)…well…school and work is going to be a lot tougher for you.

1 in 10 Meme.fin

Even the Council of Ministers of Education, while on the one hand lauding the results as a success, can’t ignore this statistically significant population in their 2018 report on reading and math:

“In spite of these strong results, PCAP 2016 scores in reading literacy suggest some cause for concern. Over one in ten Canadian students do not meet the level of reading proficiency expected at the Grade 8/Secondary II level.”

It’s a pernicious problem. This 10%.

It begs the question — who are these 10% anyway? Are these students unteachable? Beyond help? Dispensable?

No. Let me tell you about the 10%:

It’s two students in every classroom who despite being smart and curious, don’t get appropriate (if any) support for their learning challenges and are at higher risk for school failure.

It’s two students in every classroom who leave school every day feeling frustrated, anxious and like they don’t belong.

It’s two students in every classroom who are at higher risk of being teased and bullied by students, teachers and administrators.

It’s two students in every classroom who are at higher risk of abuse at home, mental health challenges, un/underemployment, and incarceration.

It’s two students in every classroom who (if they’re lucky!) go to private tutoring in structured literacy or math 2 nights a week or more–whether tired or bored or sick. Or, if their parents can afford it, jump ship and move to a private school.

It’s two students in every classroom who show resilience in the face of adversity but are constantly told “you need to work harder”, “you’ll catch up one day”, “I wish I could help, but I don’t have the resources,” “you need to be more resilient”, or “well, maybe math isn’t for you!”

To paraphrase Linda Siegel’s infamous book on dyslexia: These children are not stupid, not lazy, and definitely not unteachable.

“Solving the problem of learning disabilities can be straightforward and inexpensive. We need proper identification of learning disabilities and excellent strategies to help people when we find problems. If we put what we know into practice, we would save millions of dollars and many lives.” ~Linda Siegel, Not Stupid, Not Lazy, p. 264.

Like Dr. Siegel, I’m not without hope. We need to keep talking. We need educators, policy makers and politicians to see our children and to teach our children. To help that 10% achieve their dreams.

Just like the 90%.

Is that too much to ask?

Photo credit:

A young visitor and her toy elephant finds that the elephant house at London Zoo is closed for their winter holidays, January Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images

End notes:

*”1 in 10″ is well documented in Canada, as well as internationally. Some believe the actual numbers are much higher. I’m calling it the 10% club, but it could be more fairly called the 20% or 25% club. In 2017, EQAO testing showed that 74% of elementary students and 81% of junior students in Ontario met the province’s literacy standards; meaning that 26% of elementary and 19% of junior students in Ontario fall below literacy standards.


This post drew inspiration from many places, including our own recent decision to leave public school behind and try a small private school where children with dyslexia thrive. All parents want their kids to be happy and succeed at school. It’s a sad fact that too many do not.

The post is also inspired by the wonderful blog “thinkpix” by Suzanne Murray, and specifically her post Dyslexia: Finding the elephant in the classroom. Suzanne is “a dyslexia teacher and mum, passionate about dyslexic strengths!”

Pan-Canadian Assessment Program. PCAP 2016. Report on the Pan-Canadian Assessment of Reading, Mathematics, and Science

Not Stupid, Not Lazy: Understanding Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities (Linda Siegel, 2016)

Toronto dyslexia study finds link between child abuse and common learning disability


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