Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51 20 July 2022: Wednesday on BBC One

Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51 20 July 2022: Wednesday on BBC One 11

Jay Blades, presenter of The Repair Shop, 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 than a reputation as a great fighter. Can he now, in mid-life, tackle what he failed to learn the first time round?

He’s not alone in facing this issue. Research findings suggest that 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 whose volunteers do one-to-one coaching. Along the way, he revisits key moments in his life that were shaped by not being able to read: the ‘learner’ class at school, the dead-end jobs he had to take because he had no qualifications, and not being able to read his children bedtime stories. Daughter Zola is now 15, and Jay wants to read her a story before she reaches adulthood on her next birthday.

Following Jay over six months of learning, this intimate and revealing film goes behind closed doors to see how he 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 school pupils and adults who struggle with reading and writing, as he discovers the human stories behind the nation’s literacy statistics.

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