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A child who struggles to read becomes an adult who struggles.

The reality of this message has been on my mind since 2004 when we realized the scope of the literacy problem in Detroit. It is our mission to use proven methods to unlock the miracle and power of reading to students and families in vulnerable communities in metropolitan Detroit; our end goal is to bring literacy to everyone.

In October, Beyond Basics moved one step closer to meeting this goal and establishing our neighborhood model by opening our inaugural Beyond Basics Family Literacy Center at the Durfee Innovation Society, the former Durfee Elementary Middle School.

Thanks to the generosity of General Motors, this first bricks and mortar location allows us to bring literacy to the neighborhood where we have worked in the local schools since 2005. Students and families now have access to free reading tutoring, GED and SAT prep, workforce development, and literacy enrichment activities right in their own backyard. We have already assessed and provided a literacy prescription to each student at the center. Now we are connecting with adult education providers whose adult students taking GED courses would benefit from literacy tutoring.

Interestingly enough, General Motors doesn’t define this $250,000 grant as a typical corporate donation. During an interview with Detroit News Editorial Page Editor Nolan Finley on Superstation 910 AM, Terry Rhadigan, executive director of Corporate Giving at General Motors, said, “We really view this less as a charitable contribution and more as an investment in Beyond Basics, an investment in the city and an investment in the talent and people residing in the city.”

He believes, as do I, the literacy crisis is taking a huge human and economic toll on our city and the nation. According to the World Literacy Foundation, the economic cost of illiteracy in the United States is estimated to be over $300 billion. The personal cost of illiteracy is immeasurable.

Illiteracy is the largest solvable disability in Detroit and across America; it is the issue of our time. By investing in research-based literacy programs like Beyond Basics we can help families develop the skills they need to unlock their potential. Literate adults can find work and have access to higher paying jobs; they can take care of themselves and their families; they can see a brighter future with many more possibilities in their lives.

Literacy is an investment in the future of our families and youth, and an investment in the future of Detroit. Literacy is the essential ingredient that empowers everyone in the city to be part of Detroit’s success.

By offering Beyond Basics in our neighborhoods and schools we can bring literacy to everyone. If you or someone you know needs help, or if you would like to follow General Motors’ lead to help bring literacy to your community, please call (248) 250-9304 or email family@beyondbasics.org.

Only through literacy can we break the generational cycle of poverty in families and create opportunities to rebuild our community one family at a time. It is, by far, the greatest issue of our time; it’s never too late to teach someone to read.

Pamela Good is co-founder and CEO of Beyond Basics.

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