Literacy scheme which teaches adults to read celebrates first graduate

A charity which teaches adults in Lambeth how to read has just celebrated its first graduate.

Lambeth resident Adam White, who is in his 30s, graduated from Read Easy Lambeth on April 29.

Mr White said: “I can’t thank Read Easy Lambeth enough for empowering me to dive into reading as an adult. 

“It’s been an awesome ride, boosting my confidence along the way with the simplest tasks. 

“I highly recommend it to anyone looking to embark on their own reading adventure.”

There are about 17,000 adults in Lambeth who either cannot read, or read with great difficulty. According to the charity, this figure jumps to 2.5million adults across the UK.

Read Easy is a National Charity that provides free one-to-one coaching to teach adults to read. The charity has branches across the country – including Lambeth, Southwark, Croydon and Greenwich – which are all run on a voluntary basis.

Harriet Cooke, Read Easy Lambeth coordinator (Picture: Read Easy Lambeth)

Funds for teaching materials and training for coaches are raised by each local group themselves. 

Harriet Cooke, 25, from Brixton Hill, joined Read Easy Lambeth as the charities coordinator in April last year. Her role includes setting up service users with volunteer coaches and overseeing their journey from initial contact through to graduation.

Ms Cooke said: “Not many people are aware of the fact there are so many adults at a working age who can’t read or struggle with reading and that has created a certain stigma.

“One of the biggest challenges we face are people feeling embarrassed or ashamed. The hardest step for a reader is making the first phone call to us.”

The one to one sessions offered by Read Easy Lambeth take place in Libraries across the borough which Ms Cooke says offer a safe and private environment.

The sessions follow a curriculum, created by the Shannon Trust, which is designed for adults.

Ms Cooke said: “Many of our service users have reached adulthood without reading by using technology or relying on family members.

“There’s a sense of, I’ve got this far so I might not need help. But being able to read is a key to so much, it offers opportunities and independence.”

Cormac Smith, 61, who lives in Clapham road, between Stockwell and Oval, took over as leader of Read Easy Lambeth in January.

Cormac Smith, Read Easy Lambeth leader (Picture: Read Easy Lambeth)

He said: “I’ve lived in Lambeth for 27 years and it is my home. Finding out how many adults struggle to read in my community was shocking.

“If you struggle to read you can’t understand labels, your electricity bills, road signs, council letters.

“Most importantly it’s the simple things, a parent or grandparent wanting to read their children a bedtime story. Making that possible for people is a wonderful thing.”

Mr Smith previously worked in Government for 20 years, first as a director of communications in a number of local authorities before entering central Government as a civil servant. He said the high levels of illiteracy have been exacerbated by the “hollowing out” of public services.

He said: “So many people are slipping through the net in the state school system without a proper education.

“There are serious issues with schools and local authorities being under-resourced after being stripped of funding.”

Read Easy Lambeth are currently working with 10 readers but hope to triple their intake by the end of the financial year.

Mr Smith said: “It’s only scratching the surface, but we’re the only ones scratching at it and I intend to scratch as deep as I can.”

For more information about Read Easy email or call 07957402231

Pictured top: From left, Lisa Watts, founder and previous team leader of Read Easy Lambeth, Adam White, Niamh O’Grady, Adam’s coach and Peter Finch, Adam and Niamh’s coordinator (Picture: Read Easy Lambeth)

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