How well should a 10yo be able to read and write?

My 10 year old who is bright and advanced in math doesn’t like to read other than comic books. They also make spelling mistakes for common words and seem behind the curve on sounding out words. They are very bright and have a very large vocabulary. Teachers keep telling us that they are reading ahead of their grade level and I keep telling them that our kid has a high level of reading comprehension because they skip words they don’t know and just read for meaning. I didn’t worry when they were in 1st or 2nd grade but shouldn’t a fifth grader be able to read and write accurately with minimal spelling errors?

I only have my own experience and my kids’ friends to reference. My first language is very phonetic, so spelling mistakes are rare after 2nd/3rd grade. At age 10, I was reading classic novels and was identified as gifted in literary arts, so I should not compare my kid to myself. Kid’s friends are all reading thick books on their own (Harry Potter, Land of Stories, etc.) and their writing seems more middle school ready. 

I have always wondered if they have sensory or visual processing issues but they were tested once in 2nd grade by OUSD and the result was normal. I don’t know how reliable OUSD tests are. Kid complains that thick books’ letters are too small. When trying to sound out words, kid very often mixes the order of the letters and sound out letters in a mixed order.

Should I get the kid tested privately? If yes, where can I go? Should I talk to their teacher when school starts? Are my worries warranted or is this still normal for 5th graders? Kid’s reading and writing level stand out because kid is at least 2 years ahead in math and kid’s best friends are all ahead of them in reading/writing. 

Thank you.

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Sounds very much like my son (now 13). The issue became very obvious right around 5th grade. high reading scores because he skips words, as opposed to his high math scores because he has mastered the material. i validate your parental instincts but unfortunately don’t have a road map for you. After much agitation it became clear to us that The school district is not likely to provide services to a child who’s at or almost at grade level, given all the kids who are far below. (We were in WCCUSD.) To make a long story short, we ended up finding a good educational therapist who works with our son weekly to scaffold his writing assignments. We haven’t pursued a formal diagnosis because we don’t want to affect his self confidence, but my partner and i think it’s dyslexia or something like that, just not presenting classically or consistently.

An evaluation seems like a great idea. It honestly sounds like dyslexia. Which is very compatible with a high IQ.

Our kid turned out to have visual processing issues as well as a specific LD. After vision training (at UCB), the reading issues resolved. Other aspects of the LD are a continuing issue, and continues to require accommodation. Gifted kids with LDs are less likely to be identified because they mostly manage to keep up in the classroom— we ended up doing the testing through UC, and paying out of pocket for the remediation because BUSD wouldn’t provide services for a child who was above grade level even though the specific problem was identified by the teachers, before we did the testing. We we were able to get a 504 plan, as recommended by the UC psych department. On the optimistic side, with necessary accommodations our child did very well in high school and at a highly competitive college. 

My daughter is about that age and is exactly the same. We have done some independent evaluations. It has been suggested that age has dysgraphia (She is an amazing artist,  but her writing is poor). The most helpful has been that we just did a two-session evaluation at the UC Berkeley Optometry school. She has some problems that need to be addressed through therapy. One of the tests that they do is a reading test where they record the eye movement.  Her eyes were going all over the place, so they are working way too much, so it is no surprise that reading regular books feels harder for her. 

 It kind of depends on your baseline and your expectations. In many higher performing schools, the majority of kids will be well above grade level, and in many lower performing schools, the majority will be below it. Kids hovering near grade level are by definition neither failing nor excelling, but whether that is okay is a little bit subjective, and depends on whether a so-so level of performance in that area is compatible with your child’s, your, and his school’s goals and expectations. As far as spelling goes, it’s kind of its own skill. If he’s misspelling very common, simple words (e.g., talk, room, teacher, etc.), that might be an issue to look at, but if the misspelled words are less common or common but trickier (e.g., height, breakfast, Wednesday) and/or include mixed up homonyms (where/wear, which/witch), I wouldn’t be concerned. English spelling is complicated and takes longer to master. And half the adults on social media spell “lose” with two o’s and write “awe” when they mean “aw” or “aww,” etc., anyway — good spelling is just not as important as it once was. 

It isn’t uncommon for kids gifted in math to be less developed in language (and vice versa). That said, I would test for dyslexia because you mention that he mixes up letter sounds and order.  My son is gifted in math and hates writing. We had to work diligently every summer for three years to get his writing to where I thought it was ready for middle school. So you may also have to take on some extra work yourself. 

It’s GREAT that you kid loves too read comic books! Give them all the comic books you can. Providing high interest reading material is key.

If I understand this correctly, you’re very concerned about your child’s reading level,  your child is advanced in math but not reading, when you compare them to the few other children you know and yourself at that age you worry that your child isn’t as advanced, and your public school personnel is telling you your child’s reading level isn’t a concern.

I would start by information gathering how the school identifies struggling readers. Nowadays kids don’t necessarily need Special Ed services to get some additional pull-out literacy instruction if they’re screened as “at risk”. I wonder what type of literacy supports they have at the school, and how they identify struggling readers to access those supports. If your child’s name didn’t come up during that screening process, then your child’s school team doesn’t see it as a need for your child, so your school won’t be providing that resource. Instead of focusing on comparing your kid to other friends’ kids, ask how teachers are monitoring your child’s personal growth. Ask to see the data for your child. Also try to understand that not all kids love to read, and that’s not necessarily a problem.

Pursuing independent evaluation can be very costly (I’m talking at least a few thousand dollars). It might be more practical for you pay for a private tutoring service if you’re still very worried, and see what that organization has to say.

Take care

The testing by OUSD was solid when we had it done - if you had a full IEP work up. But for some of what you’re describing, I think it would be well worth having more testing done privately.

Part of the tone of your letter reads strangely to me, as you’re speaking of your child. Your kid is not a carbon copy of you. It doesn’t matter what you did at their age. They’re an individual with talents that are different than yours. I’m sure you’re well aware that most kids in 5th aren’t reading sophisticated texts. Many can barely write a sentence. That’s why they still have at least 7 years of basic school left. Many high school kids don’t write well and will read almost no “classics” outside of a classroom. This is true for literally billions of adults. 

Testing will be worthwhile to rule out complicated issues that may not have been caught by standard IEP testing. And it will help you to learn what’s reasonable and compassionate to expect from a 10 year old. 

Yes, I think you should have them re-evaluated. It may be a language processing issue, but also may be a tracking/visual issue that vision therapy may help correct.

I would not entirely trust OUSD's testing, I would have them privately tested. It sounds like a form of dyslexia.

As the parent of one LD kid and 2 high schoolers, I can tell you the reading/writing will only ramp up from middle school, tons in high school.

Good luck!

I would also like to add a recommendation for a vision evaluation at UCB optometry. My daughter was having eye fatigue and didn't like reading in 4th grade, so we had her evaluated. She had tracking and focusing issues, so she did the recommended eye therapy. After a few months of therapy and eye exercises, her reading level and comfort with reading improved. It was not cheap, however, and insurance didn't cover it. 

I would also add that my 11 year old son is not a strong reader, prefers comic books, doesn't write well, and has atrocious spelling. He does read at grade level and since he attended a Spanish immersion elementary school, we feel he he is ready for middle school. That said, we are toying with finding him a writing tutor -- his fiction writing is very creative, but his essay writing is pretty weak. Best of luck to you!

Mother of a 10-year old here, rising 4th grade. My son is great at math, has a rich spoken vocabulary, loves being read to, but never reads on his own because “it’s not fun.” At the end of 3rd grade he apparently was reading at grade level - at last - though at a slow rate, and his comprehension wasn’t great due to all the cognitive effort to decode the words on the page. However he was also asking me how to spell words like "how" and "why.” I was baffled as he could read these words but could not spell them. This also impacted his writing, where his creative expression felt very stifled by the effort to spell and his tendency to use the shortest words possible.  

Finally I had him assessed this summer at Lindamood Bell (LMB) - 4 hour assessment, $$ and very revealing. In his case, he had tremendous difficulty picturing the letters for a word in his mind – “imaging” they call it. This explained a lot! We made the $$$ investment in the LMB tutoring program, which can be in person at their center or online. In our case it’s been online, which I was initially skeptical about given our experience with crisis learning, however the difference is it’s 1:1. We doubled down this summer with 4 weeks of “learning camp,” where he did 4-hour afternoon sessions on the weekdays with LMB teachers. LMB principle is daily sessions. It sounds grim but there is a different teacher every hour and the teachers are really engaged and connect with the kids. They break it up with little games and kid-friendly chitchat. I heard him giggling, sharing about his day, etc. AND he is making real progress decoding words and understanding spelling rules and strategies. He gets to ask all his questions about why something doesn’t “make sense” with a real educator who can answer them.

We will finish up the program hours when school starts. For me, success would look like my son spelling more age-appropriate sight words correctly and that he finds reading and writing easier going forward. I’ve asked LMB to integrate more spelling into the final program hours so I can see progress in the area I’m most concerned about. I agree with the other replies about getting a thorough assessment of some kind. For me it was clear that something else was going on. I did not have much support from school in 3rd grade when I expressed concern. As others have noted, he tested reasonably well on their reading tests b/c of his coping strategies, and frankly they are understaffed and there are kids with much greater needs and fewer resources. Wishing you good insights :)