MACON, Ga. — One way teachers at the Freedom School encourage their students to love reading is by giving them books they can relate to.

"Every day, we read one new book, and it's a book that reflects the children. Most of the children are black, so most of the books are about black children or Latino children," Mercer Senior Charlie Marrs said.

The Bibb County School District and Mercer University partnered with Julie Groce from Appleton Episcopal Ministries to help 50 students from schools with the lowest reading levels.

"We met with the principals and the reading coordinators and I worked with them specifically to identify children who would benefit from this program," Groce said.

Groce reached out to Mercer's Vice Provost Mary Alice Morgan to have Mercer students teach the classes.

"3rd grade literacy is so important. It's the strongest predictor for not only high school graduation, but then those who don't graduate from high school have really poor outcomes in life in general. Our students really imbibe what they're learning and then they act upon it," Morgan said.

Freedom School began in 2017. This is 8-year-old Jaquan Freeman's third summer in the program.

"I used to be nervous to read, because sometimes, I used to mess up," Freeman said.

With the help of his Freedom School teachers, he's ready to enter the third grade.

"I had got better when I got to Freedom School cause they help me sound out my words and stuff," he said.

The program serves students from Ingram-Pye, Riley, and Southfield elementary schools.

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