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

Branches of the charity, including in Winchester, hope that it will encourage those living in their areas who struggle with reading to come forward and access the free support they offer.

Alan Stephens, team leader for Read Easy Winchester, said: “We hope that this documentary will lead to us hearing from both adults who want help with their reading and people who want to volunteer for our organisation, especially as reading coaches.

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“This programme demonstrates how a reading coach can change someone’s life and those undertaking this role say it’s one of the most rewarding things they’ve done. So, if you have some time to spare and enjoy reading and helping others then we’d love to hear from you.”

Allison Walker, co-ordinator for Read Easy Southampton, said: “We know that coming forward to learn to read as an adult is a big step but there’s no reason to feel embarrassed or nervous. Read Easy reading coaches are so supportive and patient and take it at the pace of each individual reader. The sessions are one-on-one as well so it’s nothing like a classroom environment, for those who had bad experiences at school.

“We’ve got 13 readers working with coaches in Southampton at the moment with more in the process of being paired up. We're looking forward to hopefully being able to welcome more readers who have been inspired by this programme.”

Jay concealed his inability to read until he was in his 30s, after he struggled to learn to read as a child. Jay is not alone - a quarter of all children in England leave primary school, like Blades, unable to read to the expected level. Nearly seven million adults in the UK have very poor literacy skills. Many are too ashamed or embarrassed to come forward and ask for help.

Not being able to read properly affects almost every aspect of day-to-day life – from reading signs and important letters, to voting or being able to understand basic health information. It also makes it more difficult to be able to support your own children’s learning.

Hampshire Chronicle: Jay Blades, photo: Ben Gregory King


In the programme Jay meets other people who are on the same journey with Read Easy – like Jacky Smith who has just started to learn to read in her 60s. Her main motivation is being able to read with her seven-year-old granddaughter and help her sister who is now partially sighted.

Jay also meets Jeff George, 31, who said: ‘‘The most important thing for me is to be able to read stories to my son who has just started school. That’s my goal. I’d also like to be able to understand more in work and have other options career-wise for the future. Reading will open those doors for me. If I have a chance of something better I’m going to take it.”

Read Easy UK has 50 affiliated groups around the UK with over 1,100 volunteers providing free one-to-one reading coaching for adults who are unable to read. Readers meet volunteer coaches weekly to follow ‘Turning Pages’ – an adult reading programme originally developed in prisons.

To find out more about learning to read as an adult with Read Easy visit

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


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Kimberley Barber