Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dyslexia: Reading aloud in class broke my confidence

Chef Marco Pierre White today told of his battle learning to read - and revealed that he still relies on "giant picture books".

The restaurateur said he used cooking as a way to cope with his difficulties reading and writing.

Pierre White, the youngest chef to attain three Michelin stars, said that at school he found reading aloud in class "very belittling, very humiliating".

"The teachers knew that I struggled and I could hear the other children laughing so it broke my confidence down. When I left school I was 16 years old. Did I struggle with how to read? Yes I did. Did I struggle with how to spell? Yes I did," he said.

He was speaking in support of the London Evening Standard's Get London Reading campaign. To date, it has raised more than £150,000 to fund 310 new volunteer readers with our partner charity Volunteer Reading Help. They provide £500 per volunteer, which is matched by schools, with the readers then working one-to-one with three children each at struggling primary schools.

Pierre White, 49, said: "I think what the London Evening Standard is doing is creating awareness and by creating awareness it dissolves the embarrassment so young men and young women are not embarrassed."

He added: "I was very fortunate that I entered a world where I didn't have to read or write. I entered a world of cooking where I expressed with my fingers and so that built my confidence. Over the years I've taught myself how to read. I've taught myself how to spell.

"I still struggle but I have to read very slowly and because I read slowly and because I struggle to absorb, I tend not to read, even though I have thousands of books at home, they're all giant picture books."

Pierre White said he realised he was dyslexic when his son was diagnosed after his school alerted the family. "They went into great detail about dyslexia and that's when I was able to label myself as being dyslexic. They could have been talking about the same boy, but many years previous when I was a boy they never spoke of dyslexia."

He added: "It's not a stigma to be labelled with dyslexia. Individuals with dyslexia have great talents and great qualities."

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