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“So, who is this David Morgan character?”, you may be asking.

It’s a question I’ve asked myself at various points, because my life has been quite an unusual ride.

In fact, I was an unlikely candidate for becoming a literacy guru at all, since I myself found learning to read very hard. I can remember my mother’s exasperated face staring down at me when I was a little boy. I showed no aptitude or interest in learning to read!  I now feel pretty bad about what I put her through, because I have since had the same experience with my sons.

However, after many years of my mother tearing her hair out, I did learn to read and by secondary school was in a scholarship class. I went on to do a mechanical engineering degree at Edinburgh University. After university I joined the British Army as a tank commander and qualified as a specialist army trainer.

The army has surprisingly effective training systems, which are now rather more sophisticated than just yelling at people, although that tradition does remain in place too!  The army is a very technical environment and every member of a tank crew or motorised infantry unit has to rely on every other member of the team to do their job well.  Life and death really is sometimes at stake.  So failing to teach someone what they need to know is not an option.  Every lesson has to achieve its objective and the army has systems in place to make sure that works.

A few years later I left the Army and set up a furniture business, in the early 1990s.  During this period, I took over management of my father’s literacy in prison charity, called the Shannon Trust for a period. The Shannon Trust facilitates literate inmates in teaching their fellow prisoners who are illiterate how to read.

I saw the genius of the idea my father had put into effect. It is so simple and obvious, and the miraculous thing is the effect it has on both the mentor and student in the prison population. In fact, the Prison Officers Association became our greatest supporter because they saw how it transformed the personalities of the prisoners, and played an active part in their rehabilitation process.

So, fresh on the heels of my revelations about the empowering effects of literacy through the Shannon Trust, I entered a new millennium looking for a new direction. I knew that although the problem of literacy was a big issue in prisons, it was even bigger in the primary school population, with one in five children leaving primary still unable to read and write. That felt unacceptable to me. What was going wrong?

I approached this problem with strong views on the key elements of good teaching from my background in the army and with the Shannon Trust, the problem solving acuity of an engineer, and the emotional engagement from my own struggles of a child.  I knew that we needed an approach with three key elements:

  • A system that would work with the brain’s learning style, not against it.
  • Engagement through entertainment.
  • A structured environment that would make each step achievable.

These three elements are what the great classroom teachers of our schools bring to the process naturally.

So I started working with local children, using materials knocked up in my home office. Frankly, it felt a bit quixotic. And yet Don Quixote had the great advantage of actually being mad!  Billions have been spent on this issue over decades and I was messing around with it in our attic and testing the results in local schools.

Over a ten-year process, Trainertext Visual Phonics was developed and the data on Easyread’s results proved to be remarkable: 95% of the children who work through the course now achieve a successful outcome. The glowing reviews I received further confirmed that we were onto something revolutionary.  Many of these people had really tried everything!

So from reluctant reader, to army engineer, to international furniture importer, I feel honoured to now be in the business of solving the problem of literacy for children around the globe. I feel confident that we can go head to head with any system in the world and teach the most children to read, with the most laughs on the way!

And that’s my story. The best part is, for me at least, it’s not over yet! I know we will continue to make strides into the field of literacy for all age groups in the coming years. And I can’t wait to see how that unfolds.  My dream is to make each lesson a child does, in every subject, a process of optimised learning through engagement and entertainment.