Basic skills scheme is 'a gift from heaven'

19th July 1996 at 01:00
I am unemployed, from a broken home and not well educated. My life would be described by most of your readers as "socially deprived" and I think they would be right.

My childhood experiences forced me into an early marriage which was never happy and eventually broke up. My own children, like me, left school without qualifications with a chip on their shoulders believing they had been hard done by. Two of them are now single parents living on Income Support with no hope of ever coming off. As I look at them and their children I see history repeating itself again and again unless the never-ending spiral is broken.

I believe it is only education which will break it. Although I did badly at school I did learn to read and it has been through reading that I have realised there are ways to change one's position in life.

My children were called "dyslexic". They were really just not interested. Their children, now five and nine, have shown every sign of following in their footsteps. The nine-year-old hates school, "because she can't get her spellings right". The five-year-old likes school and was keen to learn to read, but is already showing frustration because his mother loses the school reading book he is given to take home, beneath piles of washing and other rubbish. She certainly hasn't the time or knowledge necessary to read the book with him, so I already see the tell-tale signs I recognise from my childhood and that of my children.

However, I believe I might just have found the answer. I look after my grandchildren after school three days a week. I can't afford to pay for private tutoring for them but I approached a teacher friend for advice. She introduced me to the Teaching Handwriting Reading and Spelling Skills programme (THRASS).

It is like a gift from heaven. My friend gives me a weekly 10-minute lesson on THRASS. I pass the information I gain on to my two grandchildren. They have changed unbelievably in six weeks. The nine-year-old is breaking her spellings down into "graphemes" and is proudly using words like "graph" "digraph" and "phoneme" and the five-year-old is constantly badgering me to join him in games using the THRASSWORDS. My partner, also dyslexic and unemployed, is learning at the same time.

When my teacher friend showed me a letter in The TES mentioning THRASS I thought I would try and write a letter to you myself. Some of my grammar has been corrected. The spell-checker on the word processor at the Job Club has corrected the spelling but on the whole this letter is my own work.

EVA CAWLEY 28 Mackie Road Tulse Hill London SW2

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