KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — The Tennessee Education commissioner told state lawmakers only 27% of high school students can read a textbook proficiently. The department of education says there's a big focus on literacy across the country.
In Tennessee, only a third of students are reading at grade level in the third and fourth grades.
A Knox County student who struggled with a reading disability for years has recently overcome it and is now helping other kids do the same.
To publish a book by 8th grade is a big accomplishment. To publish one after overcoming a reading disability is an even bigger one.
It took a lot of determination and perseverance, but Timothy "TJ" Cutwright, 13, never let anything get in his way.
"He's doing this to make a difference in another child's life," said his mom Nicole.
Flipping through pages and finishing a book is something TJ always struggled to do.
"He could just never read on grade level," said Nicole. Because of that, he's been in special education classes for reading since kindergarten.
But three years ago, TJ was determined to succeed and help others like him.
"He came to us when he was 10 years old and told us he wanted to write a book," said his mom. "We feel like as parents when our children come to us with dreams and visions that we should push it and support it."
Luckily, TJ already had two books written: 'I Like to Run' and 'I Like to Jump'. Putting it all together took three years to partner with Flying Frog Studio and get the book illustrated and published. The books were finally released this month.
"It makes my heart happy when I see how he struggled and how he overcame. He didn't do it for him, he did it so other children could learn to read," said Nicole.
TJ also graduated from special education classes and is now reading on his 8th grade level.
He has big plans for the books. He'd like to see them not only in all Knox County Schools, but schools nationwide while spreading the message that other kids can succeed one word at a time.
"It's never too late, it's always possible," said TJ.
As for future books, he says he already has another book written and plans to write even more moving forward. Right now you can find his books on Amazon.