Illiterate mum breaks down at memory of hiding books from her children

Mother who couldn’t read breaks down at the memory of how she hid books from her children to avoid bedtime stories – and says a visit to the library was a ‘living nightmare’

  • Sarah Todd, from Shaftesbury, told Woman’s Hour that she would hide copies of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in the back of her wardrobe from her children 
  • Mother-of-three says experiences that were fun for most parents such as trips to the local library were ‘a living nightmare’ for her 
  • After breaking down at a return to work interview, she finally contacted adult literacy charity ReadEasy and says she ‘hasn’t looked back since’ 
  • Later this month, The Repair Shop star Jay Blades will star in a documentary about how he learned to read for the first time aged 51 
  • A woman has revealed how she was so ashamed about being unable to read that she hid her children’s books in the back of the wardrobe to avoid bedtime stories.

    Mother-of-three Sarah Todd, from Shaftesbury, told Woman’s Hour on Tuesday that a trip to the library was a ‘living nightmare’ – and explained how she eventually sought help after breaking down about her low literacy levels during a return to work interview. 

    Todd told the BBC Radio 4 programme that her two eldest daughters, who are twins, didn’t know that she couldn’t read. 

    As a single parent at the time, she said it ‘broke’ her to not be able to read them stories and nursery rhymes. 

    It’s thought that nearly 7 million adults in the UK have limited literary skills. Later this month, The Repair Shop star Jay Blades will star in a  new documentary, Learning To Read At 51, about his own struggles with reading. 

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    Sarah Todd, from Shaftesbury, told Woman's Hour that she would hide copies of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in the back of her wardrobe from her children (Pictured with her youngest daughter)

    Sarah Todd, from Shaftesbury, told Woman’s Hour that she would hide copies of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in the back of her wardrobe from her children (Pictured with her youngest daughter)

    Later this month, The Repair Shop star Jay Blades will star in a documentary about how he learned to read for the first time aged 51

    Later this month, The Repair Shop star Jay Blades will star in a documentary about how he learned to read for the first time aged 51

    The mother-of-three says experiences that were fun for most parents such as trips to the local library were 'a living nightmare' for her

    The mother-of-three says experiences that were fun for most parents such as trips to the local library were ‘a living nightmare’ for her

    After breaking down at a return to work interview, she finally contacted adult literacy charity Read Easy and says she 'hasn't looked back since'

    After breaking down at a return to work interview, she finally contacted adult literacy charity Read Easy and says she ‘hasn’t looked back since’

    Appearing on yesterday’s broadcast, Todd told host Chloe Tilley said that she stopped trying to ‘vocalise the fact I’d fallen so far behind’ with reading at school and would just play the ‘cheeky, sarcastic kid’ to hid her illiteracy. 

    Todd said that having children and then becoming a single parent was particularly tough because of the paperwork associated with raising young children. 

    After bills piled up, she was threatened with the bailiffs before family members helped her out. 

    Having her twin daughters though was the first step towards acknowledging that she needed help to learn to read. 

    Getting emotional, Todd said: ‘It kind of broke me. Your children, you sit down with them and you read with them and you read bedtime stories and you have all this fun and you take them to the library. For me that was a living nightmare.’  

    Eventually, when her daughters were five, Todd went to a meeting about going back to work, and broke down after admitting she couldn’t read. 

    She told the Radio 4 programme that the reality of how difficult life can be without reading skills hit when she became a mum to twins and fell behind on household bills

    She told the Radio 4 programme that the reality of how difficult life can be without reading skills hit when she became a mum to twins and fell behind on household bills

    The show's host Chloe Tilley discussed how nearly 7 million adults in the UK have limited literary skills

    The show’s host Chloe Tilley discussed how nearly 7 million adults in the UK have limited literary skills

    She revealed she expected a ‘snooty’ response but instead she was given the number of charity ReadEasy and, although it took her six attempts to pluck up the courage to ring, she says she’s now ‘never looked back’.

    Todd says that when she moved house four years ago, she found the books including classics like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty that she’d hidden from her daughters.   

    Later this month, star of BBC One show The Repair Shop, Jay Blades, will open up in a new documentary about how he learned to read for the first time at the age of 51.

    The presenter learned how to read last summer using the same techniques children use, such as phonics.

    Jay, who left school without any qualifications, suffers from dyslexia which went undiagnosed until he was 31. 

    Candid: Jay Blades has revealed he cried when he was finally able to read his daughter's letters to him after he learned to read for the first time aged 51

    Candid: Jay Blades has revealed he cried when he was finally able to read his daughter’s letters to him after he learned to read for the first time aged 51

    Speaking to The Sun about being able to read a letter from his daughter for the first time, Jay recalled how he was brought to tears when he received the note from Zola, 14, who lives in Turkey with his ex-wife Jade, and was able to read it.

    The TV personality was bullied in school over his race and was once told by a teacher he would ‘never amount to anything’. 

    Jay has been learning to read with a tutor from the charity ReadEasy and had hoped to fit in two or three sessions a week but filming has made this difficult.

    The furniture restorer, who got engaged to girlfriend Lisa on Christmas Eve, recently read to his daughter Zola for the first time. 

    Jay Blades: Learning To Read At 51 airs on BBC One on January 26 at 9pm.