‘John’s’ story is written in his own words.
I was born and grew up in Barry, South Wales in 1957. I went to school there until the age of 14 when I moved to Coventry where I have lived ever since. My school days weren’t the happiest or the easiest times. I didn’t want to go to school. I struggled with my reading, writing and spelling and the other children would often laugh at me, so I would run out of the classroom or get into fights. I was often in trouble and had to see the headmaster who usually blamed me.
When my grandchildren were born I decided it was time for me to do something about my reading because I wanted to be able to help them and to be able to read them stories. I went onto the internet and found Read Easy and I plucked up the courage and phoned them. I spoke to Debbie who said there was a bit of a waiting list but it wasn’t too long before she phoned me to say that there was a place for me and I met my first coach Emma.
We met in Solihull library. Emma helped me learn how to put the sounds together and how to break longer words down using the sounds I had learnt in the manuals. She really helped me. I found it hard work but I kept practising and didn’t give up. Learning to read has been one of the biggest challenges of my life, but I could tell I was getting better and I felt more confident with my reading. When I finished the Turning Pages books, I was given a framed certificate which I am very proud of and it is now hanging up on my wall at home.
I wanted to keep practising and building on the hard work I had done with Emma, so I started with a new coach called Helen and moved onto Read Easy’s ‘Moving Ahead’ programme. We set some personal targets together for me to work on. I wanted to get more fluent with my reading and to be able to read and share stories with my grandchildren without feeling embarrassed or struggling with the words. We practised reading “Superworm” by Julia Donaldson. I learnt how to add expression and how to change my voice to make it sound more interesting for the children to listen to. I also learnt how to ask questions about the pictures and the story to keep them interested and to make sure they were following and understanding the story.
I felt so good inside when they listened to me reading and I really enjoyed being able to enjoy this special time with them.
Another target I had was to find out more about things that interested me and I started to use the internet to look things up about the seaside. We then read some Lighthouse Keeper stories and looked at what made them good stories. I got better at retelling the stories I had read and took the big decision to have a go at writing my own Lighthouse keeper story. I wrote my first draft by myself them my coach helped me to edit it and to add more details. When it was finished I read it to my granddaughter who really enjoyed it and she said she was going to write me a story too! I felt so proud of myself as I had never written a story before.
When I first started trying to read adult stories for myself, I was so busy working out the words that I found I didn’t know what the story was about. I was just reading lots of words and not really understanding what I was reading. I tried lots of different types of books and finally found that short stories worked best for me. I was so pleased when I read my first adult story and for the first time really understood what had happened in the story.
I now read the Coventry Telegraph regularly too so I can find what is happening in my local area. I had never read the paper before starting with Read Easy, so this is something else I can do now that I wouldn’t have done before.
Due to Covid, I have never met Helen, my Reading Coach, in person. We have done everything online using Zoom or WhatsApp and using e-mails and photos to share work. I have also learnt lots of new skills with technology as well as building on my reading skills during this time!
Learning to read has been a big challenge for me and there have been times when I felt I couldn’t do it but, with the help of my coaches and the Turning Pages and Moving Ahead Programmes, I have learnt so much. I can do things now I never thought I’d be able to do. The thing I am happiest about is being able to read to and share stories with my grandchildren. It really means a lot to me to be able to do that. My spelling and writing has also got better and I am starting to enjoy reading for pleasure too.
Read Easy has changed my life and I feel a lot more confident with my reading now. I would definitely recommend getting in touch with them if you want some help with your reading. Everyone has been amazing and I can’t thank them enough for all their help.
“John has shown great determination, resilience, perseverance and resourcefulness on his reading journey with me, and it has been such a privilege to work with someone as hard-working as him. I am so proud of all his achievements while we have been working on the Moving Ahead programme together and hope he continues to enjoy his reading journey moving forward. It has been wonderful to see John’s reading experiences broadening and to see the personal satisfaction reading has brought him. While Covid has presented lots of technical challenges along the way it has also provided us both with lots of new learning opportunities, so I too have been on a learning journey alongside John!”
Helen Featherstone, John’s Moving Ahead Coach
"I can do things now I never thought I’d be able to do. The thing I am happiest about is being able to share stories with my grandchildren. It really means a lot to me to be able to do that."'John' - Reader, Read Easy Birmingham SE & Solihull