John Rumbley didn’t know he inspired anyone. Then one day, his young cousin copied his decision to go to Beyond Basics for reading help.
Rumbley, 22, of Detroit went through Beyond Basics when he was in elementary school. This year, he got help again. “I went in, and they helped me prep for college,” he says.
Since graduating from Henry Ford High School in 2007, Rumbley, who lives with an aunt, has worked at various jobs, including one at a video company’s packing department. He’s now in door-to-door sales.
There isn’t a single job that doesn’t require some reading, he knows. And college requires even more.
“Being able to read is important,” he says. “How are you going to fill out an application if you can’t read? How are you going to read a book or know where you are going?
“Or what about text messaging? How are you going to text somebody if you don’t know how to spell? Or how will you read their message? You won’t be able to do nothing. If you don’t know how to read, you’re kind of messed up.”
Beyond Basics president Pam Good says Rumbley is typical of many high school grads. “He isn’t reading at the level we would want him to read at, but it is common for kids who have graduated from school to not be able to read at the highest level,” she says.
“At a proficient level, you can understand what you are reading. You can analyze it. You can restate it. And you can understand it, and think about it.”
With a 50% to 75% illiteracy rate in Detroit Public Schools, “many students can’t read at a level where they could be productive in society,” Good says.
After years of working with younger students, Beyond Basics is launching a new program based on Reading Works support to reach out to their adult family members – parents, older siblings and other relatives at home who have already dropped out of the system, says Good.
Cordette Grantling is Rumbley’s aunt and the mother of Deonte Hickman, 13, his cousin who also received help. She saw what it did for her son and hopes her nephew sticks with Beyond Basics to read at the highest level.
Rumbley is “ still in the process of learning. He had to stop to work. He is trying to get back to it,” she says. “At Beyond Basics, they’re good. They can go to places in the mind that parents can’t go.”
Profile by Ellen Creager/Detroit Free Press
Photography by Kathleen Galligan/Detroit Free Press
More profiles of people from these Reading Works partner literacy agencies: ACCESS | Beyond Basics | Detroit Literacy Coalition | Dominican Literacy Center | Mercy Education Project | Macomb Literacy Partners | Oakland Literacy Council | Siena Literacy Center | Another Chance (Wayne State University)