AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson While Olufemi makes his way through the shelves of the camp’s library, there are some other teens among the 5,000 in county detention camps who don’t have the education level to keep pace with him. Although some have a basic math understanding, many don’t have solid reading skills, a common characteristic among juvenile offenders. In fact, the average reading ability of wards at correctional institutions is at the fourth-grade level, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Some, however, can’t read at all. Students in juvenile camp attend school for about six hours each day, much like traditional school systems. Those who need extra help with reading – such as students reading two years or more behind their grade levels – are getting it each day after school with programs such as Operation Read. LAKE HUGHES – Life on the outside was all about survival, a place where street smarts trumped book smarts. But since he was sent to juvenile detention camp a few months ago, 16-year-old Olufemi has finished about four books. One page turner took him just four days to read, cover to cover. Olufemi said he never knew he could read so fast. But during his time at Camp Mendenhall, the muscular teen has discovered a new passion that was once cloaked beneath his tough exterior – books. “When I’m reading, I’m not thinking about other things,” he said during a recent open house. “I’m just concentrating.” The on-site educational program serves various juvenile halls in the area and aims to increase reading skills to make youths more competitive in the world upon release. At Camp Mendenhall, about 10 to 20 boys at the all-male facility practice reading, spelling and vocabulary through the two-hour, daily tutoring program. Overall, students get about 40 hours of instruction. “I have a 12th-grader now who is reading at a kindergarten level,” said Carole MacArthur, Operation Read site coordinator. “I’m trying to get him to read so he can read a prescription for his baby.” While some have learning disabilities, others have fallen behind with their academics from ditching school, sometimes for months at a time. They can get so far behind their peers that they don’t want to catch up, MacArthur said. Others slip through the cracks, such as a high school senior with reading skills that were below the first-grade level. When MacArthur asked the boy how that happened, he said teachers in school often send him to the back of the room with some crayons. Instead of working with the troubled student, teachers passed him on to the next grade level. Interesting young offenders in reading has long been a goal of county Supervisor Don Knabe, who also worked with the Probation Department in 1998 to kick off Operation Read. The program began in juvenile camps and has since extended to include those in special education and in other educational facilities. Knabe wants youths in juvenile camps to become card-carrying members of the public library system and hopes to bring traveling bookmobiles to the facilities to encourage reading and to allow them the same educational opportunities as other students in the county. “By this library initiative, we’re hoping to instill that lifetime of learning and hope that they continue to access libraries when they’re out of the juvenile system,” said David Sommers, an aide to Knabe. Camp Mendenhall houses males between 13 and 18 years old who have been found guilty of felonies. Most stay at the camp for six months or less. Olufemi’s last name was withheld at the request of the detention center to protect the privacy of incarcerated minors. Sue Doyle,(661) [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!