Wellingborough and Rushden Read Easy volunteers ready to help - for free

Jay Blades who learned to read later in lifeJay Blades who learned to read later in life
Jay Blades who learned to read later in life
Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51 will broadcast on Wednesday, January 26, at 9pm on BBC One and iPlayer

Volunteers at a Wellingborough literacy charity are hoping that a TV programme highlighting their work will enable them to help more adults with their reading skills.

Repair Shop presenter Jay Blades is taking part in a new BBC documentary which will follow his journey as he faces up to the challenge of learning to read as an adult with charity Read Easy UK.

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Organisers of Read Easy Wellingborough cover the Wellingborough and Rushden area and offer free, confidential, one-to-one coaching in reading to any adult who wishes to learn to read or improve their reading.

Mr Blades got help from Read Easy to learn how to readMr Blades got help from Read Easy to learn how to read
Mr Blades got help from Read Easy to learn how to read

They hope that the coverage will encourage break down the stigma of not being able to read well as many are too ashamed or embarrassed to come forward and ask for help.

Alison Percival, team leader Read Easy Wellingborough, said: "Not being able to read can affect people in many ways - reading food labels, warning signs, timetables, choosing a greetings card.

"One of our readers took great pleasure in simply being able to choose her own food from a menu. Another passed their driving test. Others enjoy reading to grandchildren or helping their own children. Another was able to progress at work. Everyone gains confidence. Including the coach.

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"Being a coach is tremendously rewarding. There is a great feeling of achievement and pride when a reader completes a manual and moves on to the next one. Lessons are free, friendly, at a readers’ own pace, with no group pressure for two half hours each week, usually in Wellingborough or Rushden library but we do use other suitable places."

Jay Blades is best known for The Repair ShopJay Blades is best known for The Repair Shop
Jay Blades is best known for The Repair Shop

Read Easy Wellingborough was formed more than three years ago and they now have ten reading pairs, working away in person or online to help people like Mr Blades.

Mr Blades concealed his inability to read until he was in his 30s, after he struggled to learn to read as a child. One-quarter of all children in England leave primary school unable to read to the expected level. Nearly seven million adults in the UK have very poor literacy skills.

In the programme Jay meets other people who are on the same journey with Read Easy UK, that has 50 affiliated groups across the country with more than 1,100 volunteers.

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Readers meet volunteer coaches twice a week to follow ‘Turning Pages’ - an adult reading programme originally developed in prisons.

Ginny Williams-Ellis, chief executive officer of Read Easy UK, said: “Research shows that 2.4m adults in England can’t read at all, or can barely read. Not being able to read as an adult is excruciatingly embarrassing for most people. It generally follows years of painful humiliation at school, when failure to learn to read in the early years will have led to an inability to participate in the rest of the curriculum as they got older.

“For the vast majority this was not their choice, or their fault, and nothing to do with their intelligence. There are many different reasons why a child might not learn to read in their first years at school. For some, undiagnosed or unsupported dyslexia, or unidentified sight or hearing problems, may prevent them from learning. Others will lack the necessary learning support from parents or carers, or problems at home may make it difficult to concentrate at school.

“Phonics was not taught in most schools for many years from the 1960s and consequently many children did not learn the crucial decoding skills needed to make sense of text. It is arguable that this had an impact on literacy levels in the UK generally, but it was a particular problem for those who already faced other challenges. So, however difficult it may be, nobody should feel embarrassed to admit that they didn’t get the skills they needed when they were children.

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“I would urge any adult who is unable to read properly to have the courage to come forward, like Jay, and ask for help. It really is never too late to learn.”

Ms Percival added: "It takes a lot of courage to admit that you cannot read but please get in touch if you would like help. Encourage someone you know to ask for help from us. It can take several attempts, sometimes, for someone to pick up a phone and say they need help. We also welcome referrals from job centres and other agencies that support people in finding employment.

"Anyone who wants to volunteer or who wants to put us in touch with someone who cannot read can contact us by email on [email protected] or call 07759 815163 to speak to John the co-ordinator who matches reader to coach. "

To find out more about learning to read as an adult with Read Easy visit www.readeasy.org.uk

Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51 will broadcast on Wednesday, January 26 at 9pm on BBC One and iPlayer.