Imagine not being able to read a text message or the destination of a train, or use the internet. Over eight million people in Britain wake up to that reality every day. Sandi Toksvig hosts this new, uplifting two-part series that explores Britain’s staggeringly low adult literacy rates, offering a diverse group of eight adults – aged from 22 to 66 years old – a life-changing opportunity to overcome the one thing that has always held them back. Each week for four months the group receive intensive individual one-to-one tuition to learn the basic skills necessary for many everyday situations. Along the way, Sandi gathers the group every four weeks to face a new, entertaining challenge in the real world that puts their new-found literacy skills to the test, before all their hard work culminates in an emotional final test held in front of their family, friends and teachers. With different personal motivations for wanting to improve their literacy, the group are united in their quest to shed the shame and lift the stigma around illiteracy. After 12 weeks of intensive learning, Sandi gathers the group in London for their next challenge: acting in a new pantomime – ‘CinderSpeller’. Tasked with learning scripts and reading aloud, it’s something that makes 43-year-old new dad Paul particularly emotional. Paul has a reading age of a seven-year-old, but it wasn’t always that way – he used to be an English and Drama teacher with a penchant for Shakespeare before he had a stroke three years ago that left him unable to read and write. Sandi invites her friend Martin Kemp, who was diagnosed with dyslexia in 1995 after two brain tumours, to offer some acting tips before the group perform in front of a live audience at the Globe Theatre. The prospect of reading aloud fills 50-something Viv, a former school kitchen assistant, with dread. Brought up in Jamaica where her family struggled financially, school wasn’t a priority and she left with no qualifications. Now a single mum of three children who frequently misses important medical appointments due to getting lost, she would love to be able to read and write. Craig has struggled to keep up with his fellow learners and frequently used shortcuts and cheats in the challenges set by Sandi. Could learning to read to his daughter be the key to unlocking his confidence and potential? After 16 weeks of intensive learning, the group come together for one last time to retake tests that will show how much they have learnt, before competing in an intimidating live spelling bee in front of an audience of their friends and family. Will the group have made substantial improvements to their literacy levels and who will be the most improved learner? Series Prod/Dir: Richard Mears; Exec Prod: Lana Salah; Prod Co: Shine TV
Both episodes of this series will be available to stream or download for free on All 4 from 22 September following the transmission of episode 1.
The Write Offs (Ep2/2) – Tuesday 9.30pm on Channel 4