Christian Jaimes has read precisely 363 books.
He exclaims the figure with dead-serious fervor, rocking back and forth in a blue child-size library chair at the Toberman Neighborhood Center in San Pedro.
At summer day camp, the 9-year-old can flip through "The Adventures of Captain Underpants," his favorite series, as much as he wants — as long as he finishes his math homework first. Today, it's a three-digit multiplication worksheet.
"After I'm done with my work I always, always like to read," says Christian, chocolate brown eyes wide. "I think I've read every single 'Captain Underpants.' They're really good because they're really funny."
Christian, who lives three blocks from the church-sized building, is attending the at-risk youth program for a third summer. His neighborhood, camp counselors say, is gang-infested — not the best environment for healthy child development, especially when groups attract younger and younger members to engage in drugs and violence.
Toberman is a safe fortress, full of opportunities for kids, ages 6 to 12, to stay off the streets and ahead in school. When former campers reach high school age, they often return as counselors.
Monday through Friday, Christian is busy with vocabulary lessons, fingerpaint crafts and foosball while his parents are at work.
He conquers word and number games in the computer lab, plays badminton in the gym and snacks on treats like homemade chocolate chip muffins.
"I liked them so much I had four," he says, grinning.
This afternoon, Christian practices his soccer moves, kicking a neon-green ball against the gym wall again and again.
Lawana Eggleston, his longtime Toberman teacher, said the child has transformed over the years. When he first arrived at camp as a second-grader, Christian wouldn't make eye contact. He barely spoke, but now:
"He's so outgoing and confident — he really came out of his shell," said Eggleston, who has worked with the children for 12 years. "Before he starts his homework, he'll grab a book. And I'll say, 'Christian, you've got to finish that first.' So he does, then he instantly reaches back for the book."
Christian also recognizes when other children need help, Eggleston said. He tutors in English impromptu and helps with computer lab issues.
"He's always trying to do things for others," she said. "That's what makes him really special. He's not self-centered. He's kind-hearted and growing every day."
Through the generosity of Times readers and a match by the McCormick Foundation, nearly $1.3 million was granted to local camp programs this year because of the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign.
The Summer Camp Campaign, part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund, raises contributions to support programs that provide thousands of Southern California's at-risk children ages 7 to 17 with enriching, educational and fun camp experiences.
Donations are tax-deductible as permitted by law and matched at 50 cents on the dollar. Donor information is not traded or published without permission. Donate online at latimes.com/donate or by calling (800) 518-3975. All gifts will receive a written acknowledgment.