RANGERS and Scotland star Steven Naismith has joined racing driver legend Sir Jackie Stewart in a campaign to raise awareness of dyslexia and the effect it can have on young people's lives.

Speaking at an event in Glasgow to promote the work of Dyslexia Scotland, Naismith said he wanted to make more people comfortable about coming forward and getting help with the condition.

Both Naismith, 25, and Sir Jackie, 73, struggled with dyslexia from an early age and used sport as a way to cope. Sir Jackie is now president of Dyslexia Scotland and has invited Naismith to get involved with the organisation in an ambassadorial role.

Naismith, from Stewarton, Ayrshire, said he had struggled all the way through school, often coming last in tests. "It's not a nice feeling," he said. "That's where it started but it was never mentioned and then when I went into secondary, the teachers picked up on it."

Naismith said reading aloud in class was a particular nightmare. "I would be skimming ahead to try and read the paragraph the teacher was going to get me to read. That was my attempt to cover it up. It was to prevent me making a fool of myself and stopping at every second word. But as I've got older, one of the things I like doing most is reading books and I've got much better at it over the years."

Sir Jackie asked Naismith to get involved with Dyslexia Scotland after another Sir – Sean Connery – read an interview with Naismith in The Herald. The footballer talked about his dyslexia for the first time. He also revealed he had paid for a Christmas lunch for the homeless and wanted to get involved in more charity work.

After reading the article, Sir Sean phoned Sir Jackie who got in touch with Naismith. "We realised we had the same pains and anxieties of not being able to read and write," said Sir Jackie. "To this day, I cannot recite the alphabet. I was such a failure at school I had to think outside the box. I was saved by sport."

Naismith said football has also helped give him a focus at school but Sir Jackie had it tougher. "Back in the day, you were just labelled stupid. By the time I was going through school, there was some kind of awareness there."

Naismith was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia when he was 13 and said it was relief to get help. "It was a relief to know I wasn't just stupid and slower than everybody else but at that stage I was right into my football and that was definitely an escape. It was the main thing I did rather than reading and writing."

Naismith said over the years he has found coping mechanisms and now enjoys reading (he has just finished the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy). The player said he hoped his new role with Dyslexia Scotland would help spread a more positive message and was part of a bigger desire he had to do good work in the community.

"Being out injured I had a bit more time and in that time I was looking to help out. And after having a chat with my mates – the Sirs – this was a great opportunity. This is work I want to do."

And his advice to young people struggling with dyslexia in the way he did was – don't hide it. "There's help there for you so what is the point of you suffering through exams rather than coming forward and getting help and getting better grades and a more successful life? Hopefully, that's what we can do today – show it's not a barrier to success."