Wigan woman's reading success wows Davina McCall

Denise and Davina on the TV show
Denise and Davina on the TV show

A Wigan woman captured the hearts of the nation when she pledged on TV that she would learn to read in a year so she could tell her grandchildren bedtime stories.

Denise Gallagher, a gran-of-two from Winstanley, appeared alongside Davina McCall on the primetime ITV tear-jerker “This time next year”, a show which helps its guests to achieve their dreams in just 12 months.

The 57-year-old catering assistant who works at St John Rigby College, had hidden her dyslexia from people for more than 50 years.

Denise was bullied throughout her childhood and was even called “stupid” by a teacher, who threw books at her when she could not read the passages.

She admits that there have been times throughout her life when she considered “giving up” but she always told herself to “get a grip” and pull through.

Despite being diagnosed with dyslexia at 21, Denise said she was still “too embarrassed” to do anything about being illiterate.

“It has held me back in my own thoughts,” she said. But the mum-of-two found a new lease of life when she met her husband of 30 years, Michael, through employment group “Remploy”.

The organisation, which trained disabled people for sustainable employment, brought Denise to Michael - who is hearing impaired.

Michael had been taught how to speak proficiently despite being deaf, and the two are able to communicate through lip-reading and talking.

“It took a while for me to tell him that I couldn’t read,” said Denise. “I felt so comfortable with him though. He’s such a lovely guy. He just said he loved me for who I am not for my reading ability.

“It’s like I always say to people, he is my eyes and I am his ears. Part of the reason I wanted to learn to read is to sign. You have to be able to read and spell to do that.

“My family and friends have been so supportive of me, I have two beautiful grandchildren and I wanted to be able to read to them before they grow past that age.”

Following a year of hard work, Denise revealed in front of millions of viewers and a studio audience, that she had conquered her fear and could now read proficiently.

She said it had changed her life and now she is able to go for days out with her grandsons Ethan and Blake, as well as read them their favourite books.