The Repair Shop’s Jay Blades is to confront his struggle to read in Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51, a new 1×60” Hungry Jay Media commission for BBC One.

The presenter has decided it’s finally time to learn to read. Until he was in his 30s, Jay concealed a big secret: he has the reading ability of a child. Throughout his life he has found ways of avoiding the written word and this film will dig deep into how this has shaped him.

Blades left school with no qualifications and nothing to his name except a reputation as a great fighter. Can he now, in mid-life, tackle what he failed to learn first time round?

He’s not alone in facing this issue. Recent findings suggest a quarter of all children in England leave primary school, like Blades, unable to read to the expected level.  More than 8 million adults in the UK have poor literacy skills, and nearly half of all prisoners either can’t read or struggle to do so.

Jay will learn to read with a charity that organises volunteer coaches to work one to one with readers, using a system which was started in prisons. Blades will join forces with other people also learning to read and together they will support, cajole and encourage one another to get over their fear of the printed word.

Along the way, he’ll revisit key moments in his life shaped by not being able to read: from the ‘Learner’ class at school, to receiving an important letter from hospital and having to find a stranger on the street to read it to him. And he will discover the human stories behind the nation’s shocking illiteracy statistics.

Jay Blades said: “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.”

Executive Producer Dan Baldwin said: “This is going to be a gargantuan task for Jay. He will have to work incredibly hard and this film will see Jay completely out of his comfort zone. This will be an inspiring, influential and important film for many people who struggle to read.”

Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Science & Natural History said: “We all love watching Jay on The Repair Shop – but very few of us know about his long-term struggles with reading. 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.”

Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51, a 1×60’ for BBC One and iPlayer, is a Hungry Jay Media production. It was commissioned by Patrick Holland, Director, Factual, Arts and Classical Music and Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Science and Natural History. The Executive Producers are Dan Baldwin and Clare Paterson, and the Director is Liana Stewart. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Tom Coveney.

Jon Creamer

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