Steve and his Coach Lorraine share his Reader story with us
Steve grew up in the 1960’s in rural Dorset. His parents worked on farms, and both had survived very difficult upbringings. When Steve started to struggle at school, they weren’t able help him find a positive way forward. Playing the class fool, he tried to hide his problems. Instead of recognising Steve was struggling, the headmaster would punish him for fighting and he often got the cane or slipper.
After increasing truanting, he dropped out of school at 15, and followed his parents to work on a farm. He remembers thinking that farm work would be something he could do without being able to read or write, and that no one would need to know.
However, this took an immense toll on Steve as he hid his problems from the world, feeling increasingly inadequate. Convinced he was stupid, and ashamed of not being literate, he remembers being afraid of having children in case they were like him. When he did have two lovely daughters, Steve hid from them that he couldn’t read or write, but was careful to arrange extra help when he thought one of them was having similar struggles.
He had to continuously manage his life so that no one guessed he couldn’t read. Years of dreading Christmas parties where he’d have to avoid games like charades with friends and family, years of pretending he couldn’t read the menu because he had brought the wrong glasses, years of not reading stories to his children or
grandchildren. And always feeling ashamed and anxious that it would all come out.
On one occasion it damaged a close friendship. The first time he was a friend’s best man, he had coped by memorising a speech but became so anxious that it all went wrong. Next time he was asked, Steve tried to say no but the friend insisted. Steve couldn’t face explaining that he couldn't read to his friend so he attended the ceremony, but then ran out of a back door at the reception. He went and played football and only returned when he knew the speeches would be over. Steve’s shame was so great that he let the groom believe Steve had chosen a game of football over his best friend.
Over 20 years later, the friend had not forgiven him and didn’t accept an invitation to Steve’s 50th birthday party.
It was a new partner who supported Steve to contact Read Easy in his late 50’s. He’d tried small group classes once before, but couldn’t learn there. It felt too much like school, which was such a bad memory. Read Easy offered a one to one opportunity in a comfortable, private and relaxed environment.
Steve’s coach is Lorraine who joined Read Easy having been an avid reader all her life. Lorraine says that understanding through Steve about how much reading and writing problems can shape and damage someone’s life has been both shocking and humbling. It’s far more than being sad that some people don’t get to enjoy a great novel – it can harm someone’s very view of themselves, and overshadow their lives. And it can happen to anyone – Steve is an intelligent and smart man; it just happens that he ended up with literacy problems. Lorraine says that seeing Steve’s courage, and watching him learn and grow in confidence has been a privilege.
One of the best times was when Steve realised he wasn’t overwhelmed by anxiety at the prospect of redundancy. For all his working life, Steve has stayed with the same farm and arranged his work so that he managed without reading and writing, and with only one or two people understanding his difficulties. But that wouldn’t all be in place on another farm. While he knew of other farms who would gladly employ him, previously he’d experienced overwhelming anxiety at the possibility of having to change jobs. This time, the prospect of redundancy was no longer terrifying – he’d be able to cope on a new farm with his new found reading skills, and there wouldn’t be anything to hide.
Steve says: "I have been going to Read Easy for two years. I have more confidence and I don’t feel ashamed anymore. Now I can tell people that I struggle with reading and writing. And now I can read a book, and do a little bit of writing. Friends now say well done. It’s just like they say, it’s never too late to learn. I would not have done it without Read Easy, and a very special person who has been my school teacher. It really never is
Keep on Running!
One of our team is in training for the London Marathon 2021
Mellissa McClymont, our Website and Social Media superstar, is putting on her trainers and pounding the streets in preparation for the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon, which she will be running in aid of Read Easy UK. Places for the London Marathon are always highly sought after, and never more so than for next year’s event, following the cancelling of this year’s race due to Coronavirus. We will be bringing you updates on her training on social media as the big day nears, and will let you know how you can support her huge effort for Read Easy UK in the coming months. Mellissa has never run for more than six miles in her life, so this is a big challenge for her. We are with you all the way Mel!
Please do let us know if you would like to take part in a challenge to raise money
for Read Easy. We would be delighted to help you gain a place and will provide you
with Read Easy branded clothes for the occasion! Please email
Edinburgh to Bristol on Two Wheels
Read Easy Hackney Team Leader completes 858 mile cycle challenge
Our Read Easy Hackney Team Leader, Serena, and her husband, John, recently completed an 858 mile cycle challenge from Edinburgh to Bristol in support of Read Easy Hackney and Samaritans.
"As with so many, Covid-19 caught me off-guard. Its full impact only really hit me when, in consultation with Read Easy UK’s trainer, Lynne, and other Read Easy Hackney team members, we had to make the difficult but appropriate decision early in March to pull the plug on an Initial Coach Training day for 14 eager new volunteers. As Team Leader and also Fundraiser for Read Easy Hackney, I was very aware that, despite a generous donation in March from a locally-based solicitor’s, our group’s coffers were decidedly in need of a boost!
And so the idea of cycling to Bristol – and camping as the only safe
and responsible way to travel – took root. 'Edinburgh to Bristol on Two Wheels' was born!
The whole trip – 17 days of cycling including two ‘rest’ days – has already gone down as one of the most memorable holidays for my husband John and I, and for all the right reasons! There is something so liberating about your daily focus only to be to get from A to B, and knowing that your only worldly possessions are balancing on the back of a simple but sleek mechanical pack-horse!
I must finish by saying a huge “thank you” for the wonderful support and generosity we received from so many and which boosted us throughout the ride, and the generosity helped us raise a final total of £3,800. John and I are hugely grateful."
BBC Radio 4 Appeal
Read Easy chosen as a Radio 4 feature charity
We were delighted to hear that Read Easy UK has been chosen as the subject of a BBC Radio 4 appeal on Sunday 4th April 2021. The Radio 4 Appeal is a weekly 3 minute programme highlighting the work of a charity and appealing for donations to support its activities. The appeal aims to provide an opportunity for raising money and awareness for a variety of charities. They are broadcast on Sunday mornings at 7.55am, and repeated on Sunday evenings and again on Thursday afternoons.
There are 49 such appeals broadcast on Radio 4 each year, and in 2018/19 they raised an amazing £1,219,278 for good causes. We will be announcing our appeal presenter shortly, and will be asking all local groups to spread the word to friends, families and colleagues. With 2.4 million adults in England who cannot read at all or who can barely read, we know there is a huge need for our service and are keen to set up new groups throughout the country.
Emma's Volunteer Story
We spoke to Bristol Coach Emma about why she volunteers for Read Easy
I’m lucky. I’ve got a job I love, a happy family, good friends. But three years ago, I wanted more. I wanted to do more with my time and not waste an evening watching TV or scrolling through social media.
I wanted to give more because
I could, so started to look for a volunteering opportunity.
Each opportunity I saw was for Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, which just wasn’t going to work, because I work full time. And then I saw this little advert in a local magazine asking whether I enjoyed reading, and wanted to help others to read. Did I heck! I love reading – always have done – and tend to read about a book a week. It’s how I relax, and escape, as well as being able to do my job and run my life.
So I contacted the North Bristol
Coordinator, Gill, and was invited to an interview – or a chat really – in a local library to find out more about why I wanted to volunteer with
Read Easy. To be honest, I couldn’t think of a more perfect volunteering opportunity – with my love of reading, but also recognising the challenges that come from not being able to read, and how this impacts on someone’s life.
About 6 months later – a match!
My working hours fitted with my Reader’s hours and we arranged to meet twice a week – on a Monday and Saturday at the library. I’m able to work flexibly and can commit to a regular meeting. To begin with I spent quite a bit of time preparing as I was not familiar with the Turning Pages book, and hadn’t developed my own style of coaching. But as time has gone on and it was more familiar and I felt more confident, I probably now spend about 10 minutes before a session preparing what we will go through. I also spend about an hour a month creating materials that will interest my Reader, such as information on the first and second World Wars.
We’ve even been able to continue to do our sessions during coronavirus, by using WhatsApp video calls, and sharing materials in advance.
I’ve found that even when I’ve had the most stressful day at work, seeing my Reader beam with pride when he has read something makes it all disappear. I’ve got a job I love, a happy family, good friends, and
I coach someone to read.
I’m very lucky.
New Patron for Read Easy Basingstoke
Alan Titchmarsh delighted to be connected with the group
Just prior to Lockdown, Alan Titchmarsh, who lives locally, kindly agreed to become a Patron of Read Easy Basingstoke. Alan is not only famed for his gardening but is also the author of a number of novels. He says:
‘I'm delighted to be a patron of Read Easy Basingstoke - the accessibility of the written word is vital to us all and opens up a world of imagination and information that no-one should have to be without.' Alan Titchmarsh MBE
A reminder to please like the Read Easy UK Facebook and Twitter pages, and please do share posts with your friends and family – we are always keen to spread the word about our work as widely as possible – our Volunteers do an amazing job of transforming the lives of those they help learn to read, and we want to shout about it!