Read Easy UK is a small, but rapidly growing charity, which has developed an innovative way to tackle what is unfortunately often seen as intractable social problem. We provide free, confidential, one-to-one reading coaching for adults who struggle to read or can’t read, using trained volunteers, through locally-run, affiliated volunteer groups.
Founded in 2010, the charity has grown rapidly to meet an otherwise unmet demand. There are currently 34 affiliated groups working across South, South West, Central and North West England, with another eight groups in development, involving around 900 volunteers. Read Easy UK is the umbrella charity that supports this network of affiliated groups and provides the structure, training and support to enable volunteers to establish groups in new areas.
You may be surprised to discover that one in 20 adults in the UK has never learnt to read at all. In a world where literacy is increasingly necessary, a lack of literacy skills can be incredibly isolating. In practical terms, this means that people struggle even to do their food shopping, use cash points, read bus timetables or understand health warnings. Going to the doctor, talking to teachers, filling in forms or engaging with the benefits system can all be overwhelmingly challenging. Finding work - particularly rewarding work - can also be very difficult. Although people often develop coping strategies, many adults with low literacy experience high levels of anxiety in situations where they may be asked to read. As a result, they avoid going out, leading to loneliness, low self-esteem and often poor mental health, with a likely knock-on effect of dependency on a range of public services.
With its free, flexible, confidential approach, Read Easy encourages people to come forward for one-to-one support. Each new reader is provided with their own personal Reading Coach, so that they can learn in private and at their own pace. Learning to read transforms people's lives in many ways. It can provide improved employment opportunities, the confidence to enjoy socialising and, perhaps most importantly for many, the ability to support their children’s or grandchildren’s reading, thus transferring the benefits to the next generation. Above all, most of our new readers experience huge improvements in confidence, self-esteem and general well-being.
There are benefits for our volunteers, too, who find it incredibly rewarding to be able to make such a tangible difference to someone else's life. As one Read Easy Reading Coach put it:
"Occasionally when I am contemplating big issues and feeling weary or disheartened, I find it overwhelmingly sad to think of all the work that would be needed to fix just some of the debilitating problems so many people have to face. However, because this programme is so effective, I found my coaching sessions were the perfect antidote to those thoughts. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate...,witness the results and gain this inspiring and life enriching experience."
In autumn 2019, Read Easy UK launched a Ten Year Strategic Plan with the aim of reaching as many adults as possible across the country who need one-to-one reading coaching.