It's never too late to learn a new skill

Amy Gaskin

Amy Gaskin, 54, is proof that it is never too late to discover the joys of being able to read and write. Her amazing story shows how joining an adult education class launched her on an exciting learning journey.


Amy is a proud grandmother to five grandchildren and has known terrible tragedy among her four children, as she lost her eldest son to cancer aged 28. The loss had left not only Amy with acute depression but also her youngest son who needed his mum's support at this difficult time.

Amy joined an English class at The Hub, South Normanton following a recommendation from a friend. Amy reports what a difficult but rewarding step it was to walk into a group and admit her inability to read or write.

The small learning group quickly embraced Amy with support, encouragement and friendship. At first Amy did not attend every week but as her confidence grew, her attendance soon became weekly. Initially Amy preferred to sit on a smaller table with her group tutor as she built her first skills and confidence around reading and writing, then she moved to sit with the main group.

Amy had never read a book before she joined the class and to be able to read fluently was the main driving force behind Amy's learning journey. Amy wanted to be able to access reading so she could carry out everyday pleasures like sitting in the garden or on a holiday beach with the latest summer novel or a glossy magazine, or cosying up on a winter's afternoon with a good book.

Amy's ambitions were to be able to read a Catherine Cookson novel. She also really wanted to read to her two-year granddaughter who was always asking, "Granny why won't you read to me?" Amy's tutor suggested that she bring in some of the books so that she could practise reading them together in class. A week later, she read her first book to her granddaughter.

Amy's tutor encouraged the group to embrace the six-book challenge (opens in a new window) (organised by the Reading Agency), which offers an opportunity to develop reading skills and promotes the importance of reading. On a couple of occasions, the library (also located at the Hub multi-agency centre) opened especially for the group.

Her tutor, Alison Rodger, said:

"When we first visited the library during our session time, I wanted to bottle the look on Amy's face. She had never been in a library before and was genuinely SO excited to be there. It was quite humbling."

Amy borrowed six books to read and share with her granddaughter and was the first in her class to complete the challenge.

Although Amy's friend is no longer learning with the class, Amy is excited to be continuing her studies. Amy is always the first to arrive, joins in with group work and is making fantastic progress with one-to-one support from a valued and experienced volunteer tutor.

Amy has a bright future. Each step she takes not only secures Amy with qualifications that she never had, but also improves her self-confidence and sense of self. 

Her tutor says:

"She is an amazing lady, hard-working, caring, kind and dedicated. She is an inspiration to the thousands of adults out there who cannot read and write and are nervous about attending. She is a true ambassador for Adult Education".

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