THE DISTRICT is celebrating the life of a retired teacher who brought the joy of reading to dyslexic students around the globe.

The late Keda Cowling, who died from dementia aged 94, spent 25 years devising a system for those with learning disorders and created three manuals, Toe by Toe, Stride Ahead and Stareway to Spelling, now taught in 27 countries and more than 20,000 schools.

Growing up in Saltaire in the depression era, Keda was denied the chance to take up a scholarship to the local grammar school and instead left school early for financial reasons.

At the age of 14 she became a mill girl at Salts Mill and was later part of the war effort making bomb releases for Lancaster bombers.

But Keda never gave up on her dream of becoming a teacher and signed up for night school in the mid-1960’s.

Juggling her time between raising a family and her studies, Keda earnt five ‘O’ Levels and enrolled at Bingley Training College.

Keda graduated as a teacher in 1968, teaching generations of students at Sandal Road Primary School in Baildon until the age of 63.

Her son Frank Cowling told the Telegraph & Argus: “The thing is in 1968, when her career began, very few people had heard of dyslexia so she was baffled in the first year of teaching to find these children who were perfectly bright were struggling with reading skills.

“Even in the teaching profession, very few people had heard of dyslexia. They probably thought it was a middle class excuse for ‘thick kids’.

“She looked at the process of reading and she divided her struggling students into two groups - a controlled group where she used the conventional methods and a group where she just did anything to make a difference. It was a good 15 years before it was a fully functioning system.

“Teachers seldom have time to sit down with an individual child and that person, if they can read, they can teach somebody else to read using Toe By Toe.

“That’s why it was so successful in prison because they can teach their cell mate how to read. They’ll reduce the reoffending rate.”

Award-winning writer Keda wrote one more book in her lifetime and in 2006, she worked with the Shannon Trust and helped 1,500 students in jails around the country complete the manual every week.

A service for the much loved teacher will be held at Baildon Methodist Church at 11am on Monday, February 3 with a collection for the Alzheimers Society.

There will be a celebration of her life held later at Baildon Old Hall.

Her son added: “She was a wonderful woman. I can’t exaggerate what a remarkable life she led, for a working class girl from Saltaire to have done what she’s done.”

When Frank was asked for the one life lesson his mother taught him, he said: “Never give up, no matter what cards life deals you. You can achieve anything with determination.”