Conquering illiteracy one neighborhood at a time with Beyond Basics Program

DETROIT (WXYZ) - We want to introduce you to another Detroit 2020 Changemaker.

The number of people who cannot read in this country is astounding at 32 million adults, and in Detroit it's shocking that nearly half of the population is illiterate.

Fortunately, there is a woman who believes she has the answer to solving Detroit's illiteracy problem in just five years. She's been at it for two decades and through trial and error she says her program can have a child or adult reading within six to 12 weeks.

Remember the movie "The Blind Side" starring Sandra Bullock? It was based on a true story about  a high school football player struggling to read who went on to the NFL.

Well, here you might call this story "The Detroit Side" starring Pam Good, our Detroit 2020 Changemaker whose passion for more than a decade has been literacy. Forty-seven percent of Detroiters cannot read.

"It's a tragedy," Pam Good said. "Its a crisis. It's not just a crisis here in Detroit, it's a national crisis."

In this story, instead of Michael Oher, insert Elijah Craft who is 6 feet 8 inches tall and more than 300 pounds, and who before meeting Pam Good was reading at a first grade level as a senior at Detroit's Central High School.

"I never read in front of my class until my 12th grade year in high school," Elijah Craft said. "If a teacher used to call on me, I would do something bad to make sure I would get sent to the principal or something to make sure I did not have to read."

Craft would rarely venture from home for fear he would get lost because he could not read street signs. His principal at Central convinced him to take a chance on the Beyond Basics Program. Javier Reed was his tutor at Beyond Basics.

"Mr. Reed didn't give up on me it was like ok I can work harder do better," Craft said. "Then I met Ms. Pam a nd they did so much for me." 

Every summer Beyond Basics tutors are trained to go into schools to work with students one on one.

 Beyond Basics is now in 12 schools including Mumford High School in Detroit. One young man named Eli'Sha Hargrove was failing until he went through the program as a freshman. 

"Then my grades came up too because I was coming in here and getting my work done," Hargrove said. 

Pam Good  believes her program can wipe out illiteracy within the Detroit Public School Community District.

"We can if we were just to start tutoring every child in DPS right now," Good said. "We could complete the process in somewhere around five to seven years, and that's why I say we need to just get going."

Thanks to donations from companies like General Motors,  which just gave $ 250,000 on Oct. 17, Beyond Basics will have its first physical location as part of the Durphy Innovations Society Literacy Room.  Tutors learn 25 concepts  that teach the English language designed for those with brain injuries or even those with dyslexia, but the method works for many others like Elijah Craft, who read his first book through this program.

"I went home I read that book to my mom and was like my mom broke out crying wow," Craft said.

Now Craft may have an opportunity to get a college education at Michigan State University and play football.

"What would it be like to put on the green and white and play for Dantonio," Craft said. "He would always have a hard working student on the field and off." 

If you would like more information about Beyond Basics, please visit their website at BEYONDBASICS.org or call 248-918-3543.

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