Southsea Lifestyle – Free Magazine for Southsea, Old Portsmouth, Eastney & Gunwharf Quays

Reading between the lines

Words by Kate Thompson

It’s estimated that as many as 10,000 adults in Portsmouth could be struggling to read, according to the local branch of the charity Read Easy. This means they have difficulty with many day-to-day tasks such as shopping or using a mobile phone.

Read Easy Portsmouth was established in 2021 by Louise Bullivant and her husband Adrian. The retired couple contacted the charity during lockdown as they were keen to do something positive for the community.


Louise Bullivant of Read Easy

Louise Bullivant of Read Easy


“We were told they would love to have us as reading coaches but first of all we would need to establish a Portsmouth group.”

“So that’s just what we did. We have set up a self-supporting group with funding in place and a wonderful group of volunteers willing to help. They meet with our readers twice a week for 30 minute sessions using a phonics-based system designed for adults,” said Louise.

“Often there is a reluctance among adults to admit they struggle with reading”, explained Louise.

“It can be a hidden problem. We have one reader in his late 60s who worked as a builder and relied on his wife to do all the paperwork. She looked after everything but now sadly she has developed dementia and he struggled to organise the right care and benefits for her — and that’s when he turned to us for help with his reading,” she said.

Read Easy find that people seek help at different stages of their life — it’s common when they become parents because they want to be able to read to their children. They have often got by for years relying on others but not being able to read can severely limit their prospects and their enjoyment of life.

Louise said: ”It’s only once you get involved with something like this that you realise the implications of not being able to read well. It restricts your life in so many ways.”


Read Easy


“Read Easy helped another reader who came to us with a menu from a well-known restaurant chain. For years he had got by ordering whatever his friends ordered. He would wait to hear somebody else say what they wanted and then order the same — he would never go first in case what he chose wasn’t on the menu and he looked foolish. His great desire was to be able to order what he wanted from the menu,” she said.

Learning on a one-to-one basis with a trained Read Easy volunteer gives adults the support they need to overcome issues with reading. The free course allows them to learn in a safe environment at their own pace.

Louise is keen to expand the service they offer “We have the volunteer coaches and resources in place to help many more readers in the Portsmouth area and we are keen to spread the word learning — to read changes lives“, she said.


You can find out more via the website and follow the local group on their Facebook page 

Anyone who wishes to refer a reader can contact Read Easy on 07926 984697 or by emailing

Posted in: Articles, Local & Community