Television star and former Bucks New University student Jay Blades MBE has backed a new charity that helps adults in High Wycombe, Amersham, Chesham and across South Bucks and the Chilterns learn to read.

Across England, 2.4 million adults cannot read at all or struggle to read which can make everyday life more challenging and impact on mental health.  

Read Easy Chilterns is part of Read Easy UK, a national charity founded in 2010 which provides free, confidential one-to-one reading coaching for adults from trained volunteers, through locally-run, affiliated volunteer groups.

The charity was featured on a BBC documentary about dyslexia - 'Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51' - which first aired earlier this year.  

After leaving school at 15 with no qualifications, the Repair Shop star got back on track by studying for a degree in criminology and philosophy at BNU where his dyslexia was identified and supported by the university. 

Jay has been named as the university’s first Chancellor in recognition of all that he has achieved, and will be formally invested at a ceremony in September.  

As well as support from Jay, the university has also donated £5,000 to the charity. 

Jay said: “High Wycombe is a very special place to me because studying at BNU set me on the right path towards the future.

"And I know first-hand about Read Easy’s amazing work which has made such a difference to my life. It’s great to see BNU doing their bit to get Read Easy Chilterns off the ground and I wish everyone involved all the best and every success for the future.”  

Read Easy Chilterns supports adults living and working in Buckinghamshire wishing to improve their reading skills so that they can enhance their chances in life and work. The service offers both in-person and remote, digital-led coaching sessions.   

Louise Harvey, a Read Easy Chilterns volunteer who lives in Quill Hall Lane, Amersham, and works at BNU, said: “We’re a friendly, inclusive organisation where everyone is welcome at any stage of their journey of learning to read.

"Working one-on-one with their own reading coach, at times that fit around their commitments, means there’s no pressure or deadlines. Thanks to the very generous support of BNU, our volunteers and venue partners, we’re here to help any adult who either can’t read or who lacks confidence with reading, for whatever reason.”  

For every £50 donated, Read Easy Chilterns can transform one person’s life by helping them learn to read.

All reading coaches give their time for free but the charity has to fundraise to cover the costs of all learning materials.  

Professor Nick Braisby, Vice-Chancellor at BNU said: “We’re delighted to donate £5,000 to fund the learning resources for Read Easy Chilterns’ first 100 readers.

"At BNU we believe in the transformative power of education, and so we’re honoured to play our part in unlocking local people’s potential through learning to read.

"We take great pride in all that Jay Blades has achieved, and we’re delighted to help Read Easy Chilterns get started locally so that the charity can help others just as it did for Jay.

"Making a difference in our local community is important to the University which is why so many BNU students and staff volunteer their time.”  

Louise added: “Read Easy Chilterns would love to hear from local people who want to start or improve their reading, as well as anyone who’d be interested in training as a volunteer coach or would like to make a donation to support our work.”  

More information about Read Easy Chilterns and how to contact the charity can be found on its website