Non-profit group aims to improve Hackney’s poor reading and writing skills

Read Easy reading pair.

Read Easy reading pair. - Credit: Read Easy

A non-profit group is battling to improve Hackney’s reading and writing skills after they were ranked among England’s least literate.

Read Easy reports almost 10 per cent of the adult population in Hackney can't read or struggle with it daily.

According to 2017 analysis by the National Literacy Trust and Experian, Hackney South and Shoreditch has England's third-worst level of literacy.

Read Easy recruits, trains and supports volunteers in giving one-to-one tuition to adults who have difficulties reading and has recently chosen Hackney as the site of its only London branch.

Serena Naismith, chair of Read Easy Hackney, told the Gazette poor literacy was a solvable problem: it costs about £118 to teach a person to read.

Read Easy relies on volunteers who train to become reading coaches. They donate an hour of their time a week and meet readers at designated venues like libraries.

"You often get a really strong bond developing between the reader and reading coach and obviously there [are] times when a session can't go ahead so they rearrange it," she said.

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"While many of the readers have phones, sometimes conveying a message through words is problematic so emojis are really great as are voicemails - that's often a lot easier. Even basic things the rest of us take for granted. It's difficult to imagine."

Serena said some of the people who come to Read Easy to improve their literacy skills are grandmothers who want to read to their grandchildren or people who didn't go to school because of caring duties or bullying.

She said struggling to read can limit the kinds of career opportunities available to a person - not least because many qualifications rely on reading and passing exams.

"I felt disappointed in myself. I wanted to apply for a job but couldn't fill out the form. Learning with a coach has done so much for me. It helped my confidence and self esteem," said one reader.

Read Easy Hackney has 22 reading pairs already, and is training more at the end of September.

It now wants a second volunteer co-coordinator to help set up reading pairs. For more info about the role contact: To volunteer email: