Andy McNab reveals how learning to read properly at 16 changed life
Author Andy McNab reveals he had the reading age of an 11-year-old when he picked up a book for the first time after joining the Army aged 17 – and credits the moment with changing his life
- Andy McNab, 59, read first full Janet and John book just before his 17th birthday
- Ex-soldier hadn’t shown interest in school while growing up in Peckham, London
- Joined army at 16 and said it showed him he could ‘make something of himself’
An author and former SAS soldier has revealed how learning to read properly after he joined the army at 16 changed his life.
Andy McNab, 59, from Peckham, south London, recalled how he attended nine schools in seven years and didn’t see the point in education, reports the Guardian.
However after being put in a juvenile detention centre at 16, he signed up to join the army to get an early release – a move which would soon help him discover the importance of knowledge.
Andy said the Army encouraged him to revisit basic education, after he was unable to become a helicopter pilot as he had the literacy level of an 11-year-old.
He later became an author, writing a series of books on his experience in the Army, as well as fiction.
Author and ex-SAS soldier Andy McNab, pictured, has revealed how learning to read properly at 16 changed his life and showed him the importance of knowledge
Before discovering his love for reading, Andy admitted he was not interested in school and was heading towards prison.
But after joining the Army’s infantry, he signed up to a class with 20 other young recruits, and recalled how the captain assured them they weren’t ‘thick’ – even if ‘people thought they were’.
He said: ‘The Army turned my life around by opening my eyes and showing me that there were opportunities if I took the initiative and made something of myself.
‘Just before I turned 17 I read my first book; Janet and John Book 10. I can vividly remember the sense of pride and achievement.’
He explained how it didn’t matter that the book was meant for primary school children, he was just proud of himself for completing a whole book.
Andy said he can still ‘vividly remember the sense of pride and achievement’ after he read his first fill book Janet and John Book 10, pictured, just before his 17th birthday
Andy said this life-changing lesson of learning to read stayed with him, and when he joined the SAS he realised the most important thing a person can have is knowledge.
He now encourages others to read and visits schools to talk to young people about the importance of reading and gaining knowledge.
He said: ‘The main gist of what I tell anyone willing to listen is that the best soldier out there is the one with a library card.’
The ex-soldier, pictured in Iraq in 2003, now encourages others to read during school visits
In April it was revealed that Army recruits had been urged to read Andy’s book to improve their literacy.
Many of the novels have been shrunk into ‘easy to read versions’ to encourage soldiers.
Officials were concerned by low literacy levels as nearly half of Army recruits have a reading age of 11 or lower, according to most recent figures.
According to the figures, 39 per cent of Army recruits had the reading ability of an 11-year-old or lower.
Before joining the army aged 16 Andy, pictured in Iraq in 2003, said he didn’t care about school and ended up in a juvenile detention centre
And 38 per cent can only do maths to the level of a child in their last year of primary school.
Army candidates without GCSEs have to sit reading, writing and arithmetic tests in order to be accepted.
And those with scores which fall below the minimum pass mark are given special training.
The majority ‘turn it around’ within two years, according to the MoD. Additionally military bosses have organised poetry competitions in recent years to improve skills.
McNab’s first book Brave Two Zero was published in 1993 and tells the story of an SAS regiment who embarked on a top secret mission.
Andy, pictured holding a blindfold in Iraq in 2003, said: ‘The army turned my life around by opening my eyes and showing me that there were opportunities if I took the initiative’
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