by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
We've identified these texts as great options for text pairings based on similar themes, literary devices, topic, or writing style. Supplement your lesson with one or more of these options and challenge students to compare and contrast the texts. To assign a paired text, click on the text to go to its page and click the "Assign Text" button there.
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Excerpts from Chapters 1 & 7
- Frederick Douglass
In this excerpt, national African-American hero and champion for the Freedmen of America tells audiences how he learned to read.Pair "Learning to Read" with "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Excerpts from Chapters 1 and 7" to provide two perspectives on the history of educational oppression among African Americans in the 19th century.
At The Head of Her Class, and Homeless
- NPR Staff
In June 2014, NPR published this story about Rashema Melson. At the time, Melson was a homeless high school senior at Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C. She is now a student at Georgetown University.Pair “Learning to Read” with “At the Head of Her Class, and Homeless” and ask students to discuss the power of education, especially in the face of discrimination and disadvantage.
What Slaves Are Taught To Think of The North
- Harriet Ann Jacobs
Harriet Ann Jacobs (1813-1897), who wrote under the pseudonym Linda Brendt, was an American slave who eventually escaped and became an abolitionist. “What Slaves are Taught to Think of the North” is a chapter from Brent’s memoir Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, published in 1861. In it, Jacobs provides a true account of her experience as a slave, and writes about the lies slaveholders told their slaves to keep them from running away to the North.This excerpt in Jacobs’ memoir shows how learning of what really happens in northern free states affects her intelligence and optimism for a more just and free life. Use this text with Harper’s poem to show how intelligence, literacy and a powerful imagination are all interwoven.
A Child Of Slavery Who Taught A Generation
- Karen Grigsby Bates
This article from National Public Radio reports on the life and success of Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, an American author, educator, prominent scholar, and one of the first black women to earn a doctoral degree in United States history.Pair “Learning to Read” with “A Child of Slavery who Taught a Generation” and ask students to discuss the importance of education, particularly in the lives of African-Americans.
I Am Very Real
- Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) was an American author and humorist. One month after an English teacher at Drake High School in North Dakota decided to teach Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five in his classroom, Charles McCarthy, the head of the school board, decided that the novel’s “obscene language” was not appropriate. Every copy of Slaughterhouse-Five at Drake High School was burned in the school’s furnace. In response, Vonnegut wrote this letter to McCarthy.Pair “Learning to Read” with “I Am Very Real” and ask students to discuss why someone would wish to restrict another’s education. In what contexts has the restriction of education or information been used in American history? Was the purpose of the restrictions to protect or to control?
The Story of Ida B. Wells
- Shannon Moreau
This is a short biography of Ida B. Wells and the personal tragedy she experienced that pushed her to raise national awareness about violence and discrimination against African Americans.Pair “Learning to Read” with “The Story of Ida B. Wells” and ask students to discuss the power of reading and writing, especially in the face of discrimination.
The Scholarship Jacket
- Marta Salinas
“The Scholarship Jacket” is one of the best-known stories by Mexican-American author Marta Salinas. It describes a difficult situation that Marta, a Mexican-American girl from Texas, is faced with. Marta is a straight-A student who has earned the scholarship jacket, but her financial situation – and an unjust school leader – may prevent her from receiving her reward.Pair the poem “Learning to Read” with the story “The Scholarship Jacket” and have students discuss barriers in education. The speaker of Harper’s poem is prevented from getting an education by a variety of forces. Marta, on the other hand, has already excelled in her education, but is prevented from receiving recognition by a variety of forces. Ask students to compare their situations and the forces that hold them back. Who is allowed to be educated and successful in society? How much has changed between Harper’s poem and Salinas’s story? Between Salinas’s story and today?
George Washington Carver
- Barbara Radner
“George Washington Carver” showcases the persevering spirit and scientific strength of a famous American scientist and inventor.Pair “George Washington Carver” with “Learning to Read” and have students think about the factors that have contributed to the oppression of African-Americans throughout history. How do the poem’s central ideas connect to Carver’s education and accomplishments?
‘Why Sit Here and Die’ Speech
- Maria W. Stewart
In Maria W. Stewart’s “’Why Sit Here and Die’ Speech,” she addresses the New England Anti-Slavery Society, discussing the experiences and rights of African Americans.Pair “‘Why Sit Here and Die’ Speech” with “Learning to Read” and ask students to discuss the common complaints the two women have regarding the treatment of African Americans. How does each woman feel that African Americans can overcome adversity? If these women could have a conversation, what would they have to say to each other about literacy?
East 149th Street (Symphony for a Black Girl)
- Teri Ellen Cross Davis
In Teri Ellen Cross Davis’ poem “East 149th Street (Symphony for a Black Girl),” the speaker describes how she feels after having her hair braided by her mother.Pair “Learning to Read” with “East 149th Street (Symphony for a Black Girl)” and ask students to reflect on the speaker’s identity in each poem. How does each poem show the speaker’s ideas about who they are? How do they highlight experiences that help each speaker build a positive sense of themselves? How does each poem build a positive sense of identity for the larger African American community?