Kids learn to read through Shakespeare

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Kids are using the words of Shakespeare to the learn the fundamentals of reading. It's through a summer camp in Knox County, Tennessee.

Raven Battle, a 7th grader, recently learned reading can be fun through acting. And she's turning the page on a new chapter in her life.

Raven said, "I learned you can do anything you put your mind to, and you can be a great actress."

Raven once struggled to read.

Tomma Battle, Raven's mother, said, "Very shy, very small, teenie, tiny voice."

But in the 'Shakespeare in Shades' program, these students are acting out the classic English plays.

Rebecca Dudash, an instructor, said, "The children learn how Shakespeare was instrumental in forming the English language and even coining a few phrases in the English language."

Now, Raven is taking her new-found skills back to center stage.

Tomma said, "And by the end of it, she's really feeling herself. Feeling good about the whole program."

Raven's mother said it was important for her to get better at reading to continue to ensure success later in life.

Tomma said, "It's very difficult, not impossible, but it's very, very difficult to be successful or even find your full potential if you can't read well."

One in 10 adults in Knox County can't read above a third grade level. One in 12 don't have a high school diploma.

Melissa Nance, the executive director of Friends of Literacy, said, "It's kind of a sad state of affairs that we have that many adults in our area who cannot read or lack a high school diploma."

Tennessee falls in line with many southern states suffering from low literacy rates, but programs like 'Friends of Literacy' and 'Shakespeare in Shades' help people of all ages learn to read.

Nance said, "The students need a little courage. It takes a lot of courage to admit you can't read."

Friends of Literacy offers free programs to help adults read.

Meanwhile, the 'Shakespeare in Shades' program is a collaboration between Knox County Schools and the Great Schools Partnership.

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