Adult literacy: 'I was ashamed of telling people that I couldn't read or write'

Credit: PA

There are calls for more adults to be given the chance to learn to read again, as research shows that 18% of people in Yorkshire have very poor literacy levels.

Steve Scovell, 56, spent most of his adult life struggling to read and write - a secret he kept hidden from his friends.

Steve said: ''I think you sort of hide it, because you're ashamed of telling people that you can't read or write."

He explained: ''You avoid reading menus - and when you go to the pub you order the same food every time because you know what you want. You try to avoid it really.''

  • Steve Scovell talking to ITV Reporter Katharine Walker

Figures from the non-profit consultancy Pro Bono Economics reveal that 16.6% of adults in England have very poor literacy skills, which could affect their job and pay prospects.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, research shows that 18% of working-aged adults have very poor literacy skills.

In fact, literacy levels in the North of England are worse overall than in the South of England.

The North East (23%) and West Midlands (22%) have the highest percentage of working age adults with very poor literacy while the South East (11%) and East (12%) have the lowest percentage.

Adults with poor literacy have limited vocabulary and can't read lengthy texts on unfamiliar topics. This means they find it harder to do things that most of us take for granted, like filling out a job application.

The study from Pro Bono Economics estimates that around four million workers could receive an estimated £6 billion national pay rise if their literacy skills improved.

Career Development Consultant Arit Eminue explained: ''Your reading and writing skills can have a huge impact on your pay and your job prospects, professionally and personally."

She added: ''Research shows that the average worker in the UK with very poor literacy skills will earn £1500 less per year over the course of their lifetime.''

  • Michelle Baker, Read Easy Regional Advisor, talking to ITV Reporter Katharine Walker

Luckily help is available from the charity Read Easy, who offer support for adults who want to improve their reading and writing skills. 

Michelle Baker, Read Easy Regional Advisor, explained:  ''We want to break the stigma. We want people to say it's okay that I can't read. We want people to put their hand up, pick up a phone and learn to read, because they will benefit in every aspect of their life.''

Reading coach Lorna Paviour added: ''You can learn to read at any age. We've had people come to the charity in their eighties who want to read, and we also help young adults. So there's no age limit to when you can learn to read and people come at different points in their life.''

Learning to read at a later age can seem daunting, but it can also be life changing. Steve has now learned to read and has found a new job with higher pay and preferable hours.

Steve said: ''It's changed my life. I don't rely on anybody any more, I've met people, my work, I've got loads of friends now, it's completely changed it. It's bringing tears to my eyes.''