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Kara Tointon interview: Actress opens up about her struggle with dyslexia

by Esme Riley Published on 14 February 2013
Kara Tointon interview: Actress opens up about her struggle with dyslexia

Kara Tointon has it all - she’s gorgeous, has a hot boyfriend and is a successful actress both in the theatre and on TV. Oh, and she’s a pretty amazing dancer to boot!

Kara Tointon interview: Actress opens up about her struggle with dyslexia

But underneath her seemingly perfect exterior, Kara suffers from dyslexia and has trouble reading a whole book.

The 29-year-old has always been open about her struggle with the condition and has now become an ambassador for Galaxy Quick Reads - a charity that produces bite-sized books to engage people who haven't picked up a book in a while.

Kara Tointon

We caught up with Kara to find out a bit more about her experience of dyslexia and the Quick Reads scheme (and also found the time to get a bit of goss on her oh-so-cute romance with her Strictly Come Dancing 2010 partner Artem Chigvintsev, who she’s been dating for more than two years).

Hi Kara! Can you remember when you were diagnosed with dyslexia?

I was seven, which was young enough to ensure I got the right support so it has never caused me a problem. I remember the test but was too young to appreciate what it all meant. I know it was a real relief to my parents as they could then make sure I got the right help.

Were your school days difficult because of your dyslexia?

My school days were very happy. My teachers knew what was going on because they had picked up on it so early. This is very rare and even now most kids aren't so lucky. I struggled with some subjects but I knew why. There is nothing worse than finding something difficult and not understanding why.

Once you know the problem you can find techniques and ways of moving forward. I would get frustrated, so my parents found other things I could excel at for self-confidence. I found this in art, speech, drama and gymnastics.

When I got older, oddly enough, one of my favourite subjects was English Literature. Learning about famous authors, their stories and listening to a good sight-reader read out loud in class was fantastic.

But the thought of having to do it myself was horrific and I often worked out when my turn would be so that I could be excused to miss it. Reading in my head and in my own time was fine, but not publicly unless I learnt it by heart. I remember looking at people lost in a book and being extremely envious.

You presented a documentary about dyslexia called Don't Call Me Stupid in 2010. What did you learn from it?

So much! I had been so used to doing things in my own way that I had no idea how long I was taking to do everything. It was scary putting myself out there and being honest, but sometimes forcing yourself into the unknown - although uncomfortable - can make you better. I learnt new techniques to help with reading scripts and learning my lines and now I read all the time.

Was it difficult for you to learn the EastEnders and West End scripts?

My long term memory is very good and I can still remember a lot of my exam and festival pieces from when I was at school. I found EastEnders scripts harder than any theatre because it was such a fast turn around and then onto the next scene.

Is your boyfriend Artem Chigvintsev supportive of your dyslexia?

He is Russian and I am dyslexic so our spelling combined is very interesting! He and my whole family always help me with scripts. I'm very lucky.

So, tell us - when can we next see you on television?

I'm doing a play next by Alan Ayckbourn. It’s a very funny comedy called ‘Relatively Speaking’ and we are coming to the London’s Wyndham’s theatre in May for 16 weeks. I also have a film called ‘The Last Passenger’ by Omid Nooshin coming out later in the year.

Finally, just tell us a bit more about the Galaxy Quick Reads scheme and how it’s helped your reading...

My attention span is short and sporadic - I would read five pages before realising I hadn’t taken any of it in and have to keep going back. This slow process meant that reading a big novel was just too slow and daunting. I wanted the story in my head immediately!

If Galaxy Quick Reads books had been available back then I know I would have read a whole lot more and jumped at them. They look appealing, the size is perfect and because they are written by great authors you don't feel like you’re missing out but picking up something in the confidence that you will finish before losing interest or being overwhelmed by the time invested.

I believe reading is the best way of expanding vocabulary, knowledge and gives you the confidence to expand your horizons, also a great conversational point. Finishing a book is extremely rewarding so get reading and feel GREAT!

Kara Tointon is an ambassador for Quick Reads, the charity that produces bite-sized books to engage people who haven't picked up a book in a while. The new Galaxy Quick Reads are available 14th February. Visit quickreads.org.uk for more information.

Esme Riley
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