English TV presenter Jay Blades will confront his struggle with literacy in a new hour-long commission for BBC1 and iPlayer.
In Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51, the presenter of The Repair Shop has decided it’s time to learn to read. Blades hid that he has the reading ability of a child until he was in his 30s, and this new special will dig into how avoiding the written word has shaped his life.
The National Literacy Trust in the UK states that roughly one in six adults in England have very poor literacy skills, showing that Blades isn’t alone in facing this problem. In the documentary special, he’ll learn to read with a charity that organizes volunteer coaches to work one-on-one with readers, using a system which was started in prisons.
Blades will revisit key moments in his life that resulted from his struggle with reading, from classes at school to receiving an important letter from the hospital and finding a stranger on the street to read it to him. He’ll also find the human stories behind the UK’s troubling illiteracy statistics.
The 1 x 60-minute documentary special is a Hungry Jay Media production. It was commissioned by Patrick Holland, the BBC director of factual, arts and classical music and Jack Bootle, the head of commissioning, science and natural history. The executive producers on the special are Dan Baldwin and Clare Paterson, and the director is Liana Stewart.
“We all love watching Jay on The Repair Shop – but very few of us know about his long-term struggles with reading,” Bootle said in a news release. “To achieve what he’s achieved with very limited literacy is amazing. I’d like to thank Jay for his bravery in sharing his story with BBC viewers and I hope his journey will provide support and encouragement to other non-readers.”
Blades added: “Learning to read is going to be the toughest challenge for me. On this journey I’ll be meeting people who can’t read, for whatever reason, and hopefully helping them. I’d love this film to inspire the millions of other adults in the same situation as me.”