TV presenter Jay Blades has decided it’s finally time to learn to read. He has been told he has the reading age of an 11 year old.
Throughout his life he has found ways of avoiding the written word - and this film digs deep into how this has shaped him. Blades left school with no qualifications and nothing to his name except a reputation as a great fighter.
He’s not alone in facing this issue. Research findings suggest a quarter of all children in England leave primary school, like Blades, unable to read to the expected level. More than eight million adults in the UK have poor literacy skills, and half of all prisoners either can’t read or struggle to do so.
Using a system developed for use in prisons by The Shannon Trust, Jay commits to learn to read with Read Easy, a charity where volunteers do one-to-one coaching. Along the way, he revisits key moments in his life shaped by not being able to read: from the ‘learner’ class at school to dead-end jobs as he had no qualifications.
Over six months of learning, this intimate and revealing film goes behind closed doors to see how Jay organizes his upholstery business without the written word, manages on The Repair Shop without scripts, and struggles each day with his vowels and consonants as he tries to learn phonics.
We meet Jay’s girlfriend Lisa, his daughter Zola, and his ‘adopted’ family who all help him with his reading challenge. Jay also meets pupils at school as well as other adults who struggle with reading and writing, as he discovers the human stories behind the nation’s literacy statistics.
Jay Blades: Learning To Read At 51 airs Wednesday 26th January at 9pm on BBC One.