by Chris Richards.
It is estimated that 5000 adults in Southampton are unable to read. A newly launched charity, Read Easy Southampton are offering the opportunity to change that with free, confidential, and local support to all who want to learn.
Read Easy Southampton links adults of any age or circumstance, who wish to learn or improve their reading (Reader) with a volunteer who is fully trained (Coach) to meet on a one to one basis for half an hour, twice a week in an approved venue. A venue that is private enough to maintain confidentiality but always in a public space. All for no financial cost, with no timescale and minimal pressure to the Reader.
The program aims to be friendly, flexible, and fun!
Established in June 2021, the managerial team made up entirely of volunteers, officially launched the charity at a ceremony hosted by the Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Alex Houghton at the Mayor’s Parlour, Civic Centre on Monday, 24th January 2022.
Allison Walker, the Coordinator, in these magnificent surroundings outlined the aims and successes to date and introduced some former Readers who took part in the program under other local Read Easy branches. Listening to Steve and Tayo describe their difficulties before joining the scheme and the changes it made for their lives was not only moving but inspiring. It revealed an appreciation for reading as a skill and its effect on confidence and self-esteem, taken for granted by most people.
Steve & Tayo
When asked what motivated Steve to learn to read at 49 years old? “I’d just love to read a book. I couldn’t talk to people and wouldn’t go out in crowds, and now I’m standing here giving a speech!” Now six years on, Steve has changed jobs, socialises more and has read 20 books, and counting.
Tayo from Nigeria, spoke of feeling really embarrassed, and never knowing where to go as she couldn’t read street signs. She would ask people for help and sometimes received pleasant replies but not always, which just increased her anxiety. When she joined Read Easy she felt very happy but also down and wondered if it was going to work, but her coach was patient and calm and reassured her that she was going to be fine, “If you say so!” Now Tayo feels really proud of herself. Able to review a historic whatsapp groupchat she found that her friends were not always kind about her not being able to read
“Now they know I can read, they better be careful!”
Coach like Carolyn
Carolyn talked about her experiences becoming a Coach, she described herself as “stupidly privileged” as she recalled the first time she entered the Mayor’s Parlour, to receive a prize for a piece of writing at age 11. She is keen to share her joy of reading, so applied after retirement. Coaching has been “a real eye opener but so rewarding.” Carolyn has no previous experience teaching and the sobering thought of committing so much time was daunting but is really enjoying it.
26 Coaches recruited and trained
13 Readers receiving 1-2-1 help
12 more Readers to be matched
5 Coaches recruited
& recruiting more in February
Currently all the managerial positions for the charity are filled by a determined, dedicated and passionate team. Made up of specialist teachers, retirees using their long honed super sales and accountancy powers for good, and more besides. All giving their time and energy to oversee, support and advise to make sure the Reader has the best possible experience.
Team Leader Nick Mabey – “At this stage we want to do everything we can, for everyone who has taken the difficult first step of asking for help.”
Read Easy in Action
For an in depth look at Read Easy’s methods and processes, watch the documentary featuring Jay Blades from BBC programme The Repair Shop. Blades shares his experiences of learning to read at 51. Wed, 26th January, 9pm on BBC1 or soon after on iPlayer.
Various means, including sponsorship money from the Deputy Team Leader, Kate Stone for running the ABP Southampton Marathon 10k back in September raising more than £775! Nick Mabey In Common’s very own football contributor and Read Easy Southampton’s Team Leader, will join Kate in April to run the Southampton Half Marathon. Watch this space for ways to donate!
The Just Giving Page is open until the end of this month. At this moment it has reached 80% of it target amount, with just 5 days to go!
Other ways to donate are SO:Lotto, easyfundraising shopping scheme, see the website for more details.
Read Easy Southampton is affiliated to the national charity Read Easy UK. The standard reading program is supplied centrally and uses the phonics-based Turning Pages manuals (published by Shannon Trust) which has a proven history of success while still suitable for those who experience traits of dyslexia or similar learning difficulties.
To Learn call Coordinator, Allison: 07392 517 334
To Volunteer call Recruiter, Naomi: 07714 444 244
Facebook: @ReadEasySouthampton Twitter: @ReadEasySoton
Please watch the documentary, donate online and call to volunteer. If you know anyone who might benefit from this amazing charity, please tell them about Read Easy Southampton. It will change their life.
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