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SBS to explore adult literacy levels with Lost For Words

More than 43% of Australian adults don’t have the necessary literacy skills needed for everyday life. That’s about seven million Australian adults, many of whom are not able to read a text message, to decipher the destination of a train or bus, or to use the internet. Lost for Words follows eight Australians taking on a life-changing opportunity to transform their lives in an intensive nine-week adult literacy program.

Hosted and narrated by literacy advocate Jay Laga’aia, this is an observational documentary that confronts Australia’s staggeringly low adult literacy rate. 

In this three-part documentary series, the participants take part in intensive tailored classes. They also embark on challenging real-world tasks to put their newfound reading, writing and spelling skills to the test. It is an emotional and confronting journey, as the participants face and overcome shame and stigma that they have battled for many years.

From a mother who wants to be able to read a children’s book to her daughter and son, to others’ dreams of completing a driving test or being able to order from a menu for their partner, all eight participants are driven by different motivations to improve their reading and writing skills. 

The group is also joined by special guests – renowned Indigenous chef Mark Olive, award-winning author Jackie French and actor, writer and director Marcus Graham – during various phases of this life-changing journey. 

Host Jay Laga’aia says: “Working on this project made me realise how important words truly are. They raise not only your confidence but also your sense of worth. Not being able to read or write stigmatises a person for life and they hide their little secret, fearful that society will dismiss them. The fact that over 7 million Australians struggle with literacy issues in their day-to-day lives makes me proud to witness the journey that our participants took to be where they are today.”

“Lost for Words is an inspirational tale of how a bunch of strangers came together to face their fear of going back to the classroom. It documents their trials and tribulations. It’s honest, raw, uncomfortable and challenging and you can’t help but cheer for your favourite in the group, and at the end of this journey, a bunch of strangers become a family. They are brave beyond measure and they are you,” he adds.

SBS head of documentaries Joseph Maxwell says: “This is an inspiring and uplifting series that shines a light on a huge issue within Australia. It showcases how great documentaries can be both deeply emotional as well as surprising and entertaining.”

Lost for Words is an Endemol Shine production for SBS and will be subtitled in five languages, streaming on SBS On Demand in Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean.

Lost For Words premieres Wednesday 22 September, 2021 at 8.30pm on SBS and SBS on Demand

Source: Media Week   18 August 2021.

Anushri Sood from SBS would like to hear how has dyslexia affected your university experience and/or work opportunities? Please contact Anushri.Sood@sbs.com.au to share your story.