A surprising number of adults cannot read or read only at an elementary school level.
Friends of Literacy helps them develop reading skills for free.
The students in a classroom at the old Knoxville High School dare to dream.
They are new readers.
"The girl is jumping and kicking," one student sounded out from a textbook.
It is the only class in Knoxville for adults who can't read.
"You can't get along without being about able to read," Reading Specialist Sherry Johnson said.
Cathy Pinnick is a student in the class who went to high school in Michigan.
"They graduated me but they didn't help me read or anything," Cathy Pinnick said.
Later, she was diagnosed with dyslexia.
"I try to read as much as I can but some of the words get really hard and I get frustrated and upset," she said.
She's making progress.
"Every day I get a little bit better so it's working, it just takes me a little bit more time," she said.
The Friends of Literacy offers free daytime and nighttime reading classes. The students range from those who can't read at all to those with some reading skills.
"The class goes all the way up to third grade level. Then when they reach third grade level they move on up into pre GED," Sherry Johnson said.
The Reading Specialist leads the class with help from volunteers.
She said she enjoys seeing the students learn.
"It's a real satisfaction for me. I feel like a really made a difference to them," she said.
Carolyn Hamm is a former teacher who volunteers with the Friends of Literacy.
"We work on phonetics, word attack, some comprehension skills, things like that," Carolyn Hamm explained.
In one class, the lesson was about the Wright brothers.
She said, "So I thought they would be writing about the statistics they read or whatever but one student wrote 'I learned about me." And I said what did you mean by that? And he said 'I learned that if I apply myself I can learn this stuff and I can better myself. And this is probably a 50 year old man saying this."
"I did a paragraph yesterday and if you want to see it you can. I did a paragraph on my nephew," Pinnick said.
She carefully printed a paragraph about her nephew.
"It's making me feel really better about myself. And maybe one of these days I can read better," she said.
Some of the students will go on to study for their GED, others will have an easier time at the grocery store, while others will just enjoy the satisfaction of learning how to read.
"I just want to learn how to read better so I can read the newspaper and if I get a letter in the mail I can try to read that and stuff. I'm getting there," Pinnick said.