Jay Blades admits he 'feels shame' learning to read in his fifties

The Repair Shop presenter Jay Blades says he’s overcoming feelings of ‘shame’ by learning to read in his fifties – and that every time he gets a word right he feels like ‘a kid at Christmas’

  • The Repair Shop presenter was diagnosed with dyslexia at university aged 31 
  • Undiagnosed condition meant the TV personality had the reading age of a child 
  • He has confronted his struggle to read for an upcoming BBC One documentary 
  • Jay says dyslexia has allowed him to develop heightened emotional intelligence

The Repair Shop host Jay Blades says he’s had to overcome feelings of ‘shame’ while learning to read in his fifties, but that every time he get’s a word right he’s like ‘a kid at Christmas’.   

After years struggling with literacy, the presenter was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 31 while studying criminology at Buckinghamshire New University – learning he had the reading age of an eleven-year-old child. 

Jay, 51, who lives in Wolverhampton, confronted his struggles for a forthcoming BBC One documentary, which saw him join forces with other people learning to read with the help of a charity. 

In an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Jay – who has a PA to read emails sent to him by TV producers – said that learning to read phonetically felt like ‘going back to nursery’ . 

The Repair Shop host Jay Blades says he’s had to overcome feelings of ‘shame’ while learning to read in his fifties, but that every time he get’s a word right he’s like ‘a kid at Christmas’

‘I do feel shame,’ he said. ‘It’s scary to accept your vulnerability. But every time I get a word right I’m a kid at Christmas.’  

When Jay was diagnosed with dyslexia as a mature student he began using an exam scribe and text-to-speech technology and now when he sends phone messages he tends to send voice notes or dictated texts.   

He revealed that in the first three years of filming his hit BBC show The Repair Shop, he never read the written summary of each interviewee each host was given ahead of filming.   

‘The beauty of dyslexia, and 20 years of community work, is that it gives you the emotional intelligence to draw out a story. That’s my role’, he said. 

Jay, 51, (pictured on This Morning in 2019) who lives in Wolverhampton, confronted his struggles for a forthcoming BBC One documentary

The forthcoming documentary will see Jay working with a charity that organises volunteer coaches to work one to one with readers using a system which started in prisons.  

The presenter will reveal how his struggle with literacy has impacted his life, from being placed in 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. 

Jay said of the BBC documentary: ‘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.’  

Jay Blades: Learning To Read At 51 will air on BBC1 and be available on iPlayer soon 

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