Reading Between the Lines: How Beyond Basics Got Started


Pamela Good delivers winter coats to students at Herman Rogers Academy, in Detroit. Later, she teams up with Dr. Joanne Wagerson to address learning inequities between the city and its suburbs.



Pilot programs in Detroit elementary schools that include art projects, book clubs, field trips, and publishing student stories. Enthusiasm builds!


Incorporates as a non-profit, formalizes its early programs and establishes first in-school publishing center.

Goes fulltime in Detroit’s Jamieson Elementary School thanks to the Farbman family’s generosity. The Webber Foundation becomes a major supporter.



While operating in Detroit and Pontiac, uncovers a profound literacy gap among participating students.

Mercedes Benz Financial Services provides funding for reading and writing in Thirkell Elementary School, Detroit.


National reading expert Steve Tattum collaborates on a literacy program while students show grade level movement after six weeks of literacy tutoring.



Gains recognition for expertise in literacy education in underserved communities. Attorney Ira Jaffe joins the board.


Gordon Follmer brings Beyond Basics to Detroit’s Finney High School, duplicates results among older students.

Family Literacy pilot offers adult GED services and reading tutoring; expands literacy tutoring to students in grades three to 12.



The Wayne and Joan Webber Foundation announce a $2 million gift to Beyond Basics to help end illiteracy in Detroit’s public schools.


Develops Reading Readiness, Read to Rise, and the Scholars programs with pilots slated for 2016 school year.



Drs. D. Carl Freeman and Hilary Horn Ratner at Wayne State University validate Beyond Basics’ groundbreaking work.

Brings its programs to Myers Elementary School, Taylor.


“A Day in the Life” documentary by Keith Famie tells the poignant story of Elijah Craft, a Beyond Basics’ student.



The Durfee Family Literacy Center, sponsored by GM and located at the Durfee Innovation Society in Detroit, opens to serve neighborhood residents of any age.


Launches the Be the Solution campaign to raise $33 million and tutor 11,000 Detroit high school students in three years.



GM donates $1 million to Be the Solution.


The A.A. Van Elslander Foundation donates $1.5 million to create the Beyond Basics Legacy Program at Denby High School honoring Art Van Elslander.


Our Story

Beyond Basics began in the spring of 1999 as a coat donation project in one inner-city elementary Detroit Public School. Being in the school helped us see clearly the children’s extreme poverty and deprived living conditions, as well as the inequities in public education between suburb and city. We began with the concern for children and looked to impact the state of public school education in high poverty areas with the belief that a program such as ours could make a positive change.

For two years, pilot programs were run with groups of students in several elementary schools to see how well the children responded to the idea of having new learning opportunities within their current educational structure. The students’ excitement about these new learning opportunities was consistent throughout all the pilot programs, and so it was (and remains), the children’s enthusiasm that provided the catalyst to create and grow the Beyond Basics organization into what it is today.

Motivated by the response of participating students, in February 2002, Beyond Basics was incorporated as a non-profit with the hope of reaching more children in more schools throughout southeast Michigan. That September, Beyond Basics established its first on-site Publishing Center and formalized many other programs.

The Farbman family gave us seed money to establish our programs full-time in a school. Mercedes Benz Financial Services and the Webber Foundation followed to support additional schools.

After we were in the schools running programs all day, every day, we learned the students could not read at or near grade level. With the help of educators, we began to develop volunteer-based reading programs and although it was great for children to have someone read to them, it did not move them to grade level.

In 2008, we sought the help of Steve Tattum, and through his program model; we were able to get “miracle” results. Children learned to read at grade level or proficiently in just 6 weeks of one on one tutoring led by a certified, trained tutor.

Mr. Ira Jaffe joined our efforts and helped to build a sound infrastructure for the organization allowing us to perfect our model and expand our work. Through our work, we have become experts in child literacy education in vulnerable communities.

Since then we have perfected our intensive reading and tutoring model and serve Preschool through adulthood in a variety of ways. Serving kids in the schools during the school day, afterschool programs, and online tutoring as well. We continue to provide enrichment program to these students in order to expand their vocabulary and teach them about the world around them.

Our goal is to advocate for those who are lost in a broken system. We believe literacy is for everyone.

Beyond Basics Logo
18000 West Nine Mile Road
Suite 450
Southfield, MI 48075

Contact Us

Fax: 248-996-9577