Reading for pleasure

Tommy's story: Reading the football programme

Tommy's inspiring story.

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Click on the picture above to hear Tommy Dawkins' inspiring story of learning to read.



My name's Tommy Dawkins and I'm from Stoke-on-Trent. I work for a pottery firm and nobody I worked with knew that I couldn’t hardly read and write at all.

People ask me, "Can you spell your grandchildren's names?" and things like that. I've got all the tattoos on my arm! "Thomas, Aaron, Cody, Kieran, Conrad and Lexi." So if anyone says to me, "How do you spell Cody? How do you spell Aaron?" Instead of having bits of paper, I have them tattooed on my arm.

All of a sudden, the pottery industry started bringing in forms. I used to wrap them up, throw them in the bin and say, "I’m here for work. Don’t mess about with your bits of paper!" You do anything to get out of it.

Then I started going to union meetings and they said, "Right. We've picked 19 of you to go out in the pottery industry and find people that have problems reading." And the bloke next to me, he says, "Ah, hey up, what a waste of money." I said, "Oi, I’m one of them people." And then the whole place just went quiet.

People were saying, "We didn’t know that at all. You look so confident." I said, "That’s the way I’ve hid it."

I've gone on some courses, all due to the union. It started helping me, and I thought, "Why haven’t I done this a long time ago?"

My passion is football. I love Port Vale. Once I started being able to read a bit, I bought a programme. Now, I read it, I understand it and it's fantastic.

[Entering the club room at Port Vale] Hey up, lads, are we alright?


Yeah, are you?


[Reading from his programme] This is what Micky Adams has said, "I would like to welcome Lawrie Sanchez and all the staff, directors and supporters of Barnet FC…"

[Cheering with the crowd at a match] Yeah! Get in there! Phroar!

Being able to read and write, mainly coming forward and admitting you've got a problem has been a massive help in my life.

Quick tips for tutors

  • Short film about Tommy Dawkins' inspiring true story of learning to read as an adult.
  • He discusses what learning to read has meant for him, including how he now enjoys reading the football programme of his beloved Port Vale FC.
  • May be used to introduce the topic in class and stimulate discussion around the featured story.