Beyond Basics is a metro-Detroit-based free literacy program that incorporates one-on-one reading coaches, book clubs, tutoring and reading buddies to bring underperforming students up to grade level.
The organization’s stated mission “is to guide and support children in economic need to develop fundamental educational skills. We aim to move these children beyond the basics and prepare them for productive and meaningful lives.” Pamela Good, the programs’ founder, said the reading program initially began as a coat drive in 1999. It was during that time, it became clear that students needed more than just coats.
“I remember being struck by hearing from a principal and reading resource teacher that students didn’t have any student enrichment programs. No art. No reading. No music. No computers. I left there that day saying I would do more,” declared Good.
Doing more, meant the addition of literacy programs to the already existing coat drive efforts and providing Beyond Basics tutors for students in grades 1-12 at six schools, five in Detroit and one in Pontiac. The program serves 4,000 students annually.
“Poverty really shows up to society’s doors at public education. This problem starts at birth and it is in the community. Children are not showing up to school literate. In many cases, they have no aptitude for the language. They don’t know their letters. They don’t know their sounds. They are really reading below a kindergarten grade level,” Good lamented.
Good admits literacy rates in Detroit schools directly affect the potential future of not only children, but also the community. Engaging the community with wraparound services, she said will improve literacy and success at all levels. It is the community — she insists, that must be the focus of all literacy efforts.
“When I talk about literacy, I’m not talking about just third grade. We have students in high school that are reading at a third and fourth grade level. We have to do something for them as well,” said Good.
When asked about Michigan House Bill no. 4822, which mandates that all of Michigan’s third graders read at grade level or they will be held back, Good explained that the bill simply doesn’t do enough.
“I see this problem in a very different way than probably most people do. We’ve been involved in learning about the [literacy] problem for so long. This is an attempt to try and do something. It’s just simply not enough. We have a literacy crisis in Detroit schools and in other school districts,” Good said.
The issue of literacy, is a far larger issue than that described in the bill. The free program, Good said, has proven success as students have shown an increase in reading grade levels in just 10 to 14 weeks, via the programs one-on-one reading sessions.
“We do have a miracle solution here that could be rolled out,” Good said about Beyond Basics. “We could have a literate Detroit Public School system in five years if we put the resources behind it.”
To enroll your child in Beyond Basics or for more information about the program, please call (248) 250-9304 or visit beyondbasics.org.