Singer Mollie King told MPs she thought she was “stupid” until she learned she had dyslexia, as she emphasised the importance of early diagnosis.
The musician, 31, opened up about her struggle with dyslexia – revealing it affected her ability to learn lyrics in The Saturdays – as she addressed the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Dyslexia and Other Specific Learning Difficulties on Wednesday.
She said when she was a child the prospect of reading aloud in class filled her with dread and it got to the stage where she was “so panicked” she would make up excuses to leave the room.
King said it was a “huge relief” to be diagnosed with dyslexia at 10 as she had “been feeling like I was stupid and somehow worse than my classmates, and I didn’t understand why”.
“With the diagnosis, everything clicked into place,” she said.
“I knew I wasn’t worse than everyone else – I was just different.”
“I’m so grateful I was diagnosed in primary school, and not any later, because it was really starting to knock my confidence,” she said.
King, who was speaking in Parliament as an ambassador of the British Dyslexia Association, said: “Dyslexia affects as many as one in 10 people in the UK, but it affects us in different ways.
“I can only describe what it’s like for me. If I’m reading something – a novel, a page of notes, a normal household bill – I have to focus really hard on making sure I’m reading the words in order from left to right.
“Some words look like they’re jumping out of the page at me. Others don’t appear straight away. If I’m tired, it’s often worse. Everything on the page will look like a blur. It can feel like every word on the page in front of me is constantly moving.”
She went on: “It’s affected me as a member of the girl band The Saturdays (and if you don’t know who they are I’ll tell you off later!), it affects me as a presenter on BBC Radio 1 and the TV work I do.
“Whenever I was making an album with The Saturdays, we’d be given a lyric sheet before we went into the recording studio.
“My bandmates could go straight in and sing the melody as they read the lyrics.
“But I couldn’t read the lyrics quickly enough to sing them at the pace of the song.
“I’d have to learn the whole lyric sheet by heart before I went in. It was a case of putting in this extra effort to make sure I kept up.”
King said it was the same in her presenting career and that when she is live on Radio 1 she uses the pauses when a song is playing to read texts from listeners over and over again.
“Because if a text is put in front of me and I have to read it on the spot, I probably won’t get it right,” she said.
“When I guest-presented This Morning last summer, I would use the three-minute ad breaks to go over what was on the autocue as many times as possible. That way it would reduce my chances of making a mistake live on air, in front of millions of viewers.”
The star said she wanted people to know that “dyslexia isn’t something that defeats you”.
“The key is being diagnosed as early as possible,” she said.
“It breaks my heart that there could be people out there struggling through life unnecessarily because they’ve not been diagnosed, and are still feeling stupid the way I did.
“I went from being bottom of the class in primary school to getting 3 As at A-level.
“The better we all understand dyslexia, the more we can help people who have it to reach their full potential.”