By Harry Mottram: It is an uncomfortable fact that around 2.4 million adults in England cannot read at all or can barely read.
Read Easy, an organisation dedicated to teaching adults to read, was set up in 2010 by prison literacy tutor Ginny Williams-Ellisin in Dorset after she realised the high numbers of grown-ups couldn’t read basic English.
Since then Read Easy UK has set up over 90 reading groups around the country linked to the charity with one based in Bath that is helping approximately 20 or so people in and around the city who can’t read.
I met up with David Hassard of Read Easy Bath to find out more.
“If people can’t read they are generally unemployed, or have work with low wages and their prospects are very poor, so having free one to one tutoring is very important,” he said, “a lot of the people we teach have not been successful at school and don’t want to learn in a class room environment.
“A lot of people are very shy in coming forward, they don’t want to admit that they can’t read, so getting them across the starting line is the biggest challenge.
“So one to one is typically two half hour sessions a week, meeting in what I call public private places like the library and church halls, so there is somebody else within sight or sound for safe guarding purposes.”
The group have 20 reading coaches in Bath and have plans to include Radstock and Peasedown St John. He said Read Easy UK is effectively a franchise and they provide the insurance, procedures and administration.
“We work with other groups like Bath Welcomes Refugees and Bath College who refer readers. What happens is some people will apply for a course or a job and don’t quite have the reading levels required,” he explained, “head teachers have referred readers to us with parents who can’t read. They must be English speakers and they must be 18 or over.”
With 20 reading coaches in the group there is always a need to recruit more, with training sessions – but Read Easy Bath need volunteers to take on administration, publicity and management.
Originally from London David lives in Priston with his wife and works part-time as a surveyor and says he joined Read Easy as he simply wanted to help people now he had more time. No religious or political motive – but an urge to do something positive – which brings its own rewards. He said: “When you meet someone who cannot read and then two years later they can read and have got a job it’s very satisfying. We had two guys who came to us and now both can read and both have jobs as HGV drivers.”
On BBC TV earlier this year there was a documentary Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51, which helped to raise awareness of the issue.
For more about Read Easy Bath, to volunteer or to help in some way visit https://readeasy.org.uk/groups/bath/
Harry Mottram is the News Editor
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