Students at Skagit County Juvenile Corrections Find New Hope in Learning to Read
Brian Brown is giving his students at the Skagit County Juvenile Corrections Center in Mount Vernon, Washington, the key to unlock the doors that bar their way – not the key to the doors of the corrections center, but rather a key that could unlock their struggles with reading and keep them from coming back once they have left. That key is literacy.
Brown, a teacher at the corrections center, notes that most of the kids who come to the corrections center haven’t done well in school, if they have attended school at all; a lot of the blame for juvenile delinquency, he claims, lies at the feet of illiteracy.
“What can you do in our society today if you can’t read?” Brown wonders aloud. “Even for jobs that are supposed to be ‘just using your hands,’ you have to be able to read. The readability of auto mechanics’ manuals is unbelievably hard. If (kids) don’t have the skills to be employed, they get into trouble.”
Reading Horizons, an interactive computer software program that teaches reading in a fun and autonomous format, has been assisting him in his efforts to make a difference in Skagit County.
“(Reading Horizons) breaks reading into manageable skills,” Brown states. “It gives (my students) a key to a room they didn’t quite understand how to get into, and it’s not so secretive anymore. If there’s only one gift I could give any kid, it would be the gift to read. No matter where you are or what’s going on, it gives you an out, a release.”
One young man, who had never previously picked up a book in his life, breezed through seven books in two days upon learning how to read. Another student, a former high school dropout who had once been labeled “mildly retarded,” is now gaining self-confidence and is pursuing his GED.
These and many other success stories have taken place at the corrections center thanks to Brown’s careful tutelage and the Reading Horizons methodology.
“You see them light up,” Brown says of his students. “You see these kids succeed where they’ve never succeeded before.”
For more information on the Skagit Youth and Family Services program, please call (360) 419-3493.