Tales from the Trail of a YA Author – Labor Intensive

Happy Labor Day! I recently read about a teen literacy program for juvenile offenders in the LA Times and it really caught my interest, so I thought it would be appropriate on Labor Day to share more about a plan to promote reading and self esteem for kids in probation camps who are among other things doing “hard labor.”
For a great overview read Theresa Watanabe’s excellent story for the LA Times on “Freedom School.” http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jul/29/local/la-me-juvies-school-20130730
There are many youth camps for juvenile offenders, where young people, usually ranging in age from 13 to 17, are sentenced to the camps for months or even years after committing a crime. The camps aim to rehabilitate, teach job skills and get kids clean from drugs and alcohol.
The new literacy pilot program was held at two California juvenile camps including one in Malibu and one at Camp Afflerbaugh in La Verne, a suburb 30 miles east of Los Angeles. Afflerbaugh has for years worked towards helping young offenders get high school diplomas and even go to college.
But it’s been challenging and now the county has launched a wide-ranging effort to fix failing practices. The latest educational initiative is called Freedom School, a summer literacy program that includes the high-energy morning gathering — known as “Harambee,” which means “Let’s pull together” in Swahili.
Teenager read books about civil rights featuring Latino and African American protagonists overcoming poverty, abuse and drug addiction and did related activities. The program, developed in 1995 by the Children’s Defense Fund, has reached more than 90,000 students nationally but the test run at two juvenile probation camps in La Verne and Malibu marks California’s first effort to bring it to incarcerated youth.
So far so good. Suspensions from classes and other disciplinary actions plunged by 93% at Camp Afflerbaugh during the five-week program, which concluded earlier this summer. Some boys reported finishing the first novel in their lives, according to Watanabe’s article. I think that’s amazing. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve also contacted the LA County Office of Education and am exploring ways I can provide any services to these literacy efforts.

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2 thoughts on “Tales from the Trail of a YA Author – Labor Intensive

  1. I had a friend who taught in the jails and he said it was the most inspiring job. He had no issues with discipline because if they misbehaved they were kicked out of the class and had to go back to their cell.

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