“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free” Frederic Douglass

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free” Frederic Douglass.a true notebook

When thinking about a quote, it is important to know who said, or wrote the quote. So, who was Frederic Douglass? Frederic Douglass was born into slavery in 1818, but died a freeman in 1895. He became a prolific speaker and writer, and with every breath and pen stroke, from when he escaped (September 3, 1838), to when he became free (December 12, 1846), to when he died (February 20, 1895), he spoke out against slavery, and spoke out for knowledge, self-improvement and self-empowerment. His family, continue his legacy and are dedicated to perpetuating the legacy of… the famed orator, author and statesmen and editor…to promote financial literacy, bridge the digital divide, promote small businesses, economic development and to save our youth. FDO awards scholarships to deserving students and makes them aware that the genesis of transforming their lives revolves around providing them with opportunities to enhance their reading, writing, and oratorical skills through involving them in real life, real time experiences that serve to enhance their skills in these vital areas as well as build self-esteem.” (Douglass IV, Fred, U.S.A.,http://frederickdouglassiv.org/, 2015)

Frederic Douglass understood that reading was knowledge, and that knowledge was power. However, he also understood that reading is only a part of the puzzle. Success comes through, “reading, writing, and oratorical skills,” (FDO,http://frederickdouglassiv.org/, 2015). Therefore, teachers should aim to teach their students these three skills. After graduating from High School, the majority of students will know how to read, write, type and speak. However, will they know how to actively and critically carry out these activities? How should these skills be taught?

Oratorical Skills

It is easier to learn oratorical skills if one is speaking in a small-group format. This can be orchestrated during a novel studies unit; divide a class into “Book Clubs.” It is not necessary for students to study alone. In fact, if students are auditory or kinesthetic learners, then studying in a group might be the best way of learning information. Students can choose the novel they wish to read, as long as it is grade/reading level appropriate, and two to four other students wish to read the same novel. However, it is important that Book Clubs are organized. Here are some tips to help:

  • It is best to have just three-five people in a study group. That way, everyone has the opportunity to talk and everyone understands the material. Plus, if there are more than five people gathered, then it is no longer a Book Club…It is a party!
  • Be respectful of all members.
  • It may help to have one person act as a leader. The job of the leader is to make sure that everyone stays focused on learning. One thing that can be done is have “experts” on topics and those experts become the leaders for each study session.
  • Make sure to be prepared. A study session is a time to share understanding of a topic and the more members can offer the group, the better!

When the students have completed their chosen novel, each group will teach a lesson to their classmates. Everyone in each Book Club will be required to give a speech to the entire class, based on what they learned in their club. One student will be responsible for a particular section: characters, setting, plot, imagery, climax, etc.


Reading becomes easier if it is active and if students are interested in what they are reading. It also becomes easier if students are able to concentrate on what they are reading. One thing teachers may be able to implement is D.E.A.R. Time (Drop Everything and Read). In this day and age, it is (almost) impossible to devote all of your attention to just one thing. Our society has become capable of splitting focus into different directions at one time. At any given moment, one may have email accounts, Facebook pages, blogs, and Twitter feeds, open and accessible. Cell phones are always within easy reach. Add T.V. to the mix and in less than a second, attention becomes split and one is no longer devoting all attention to the work at hand. (So, bear with me for a second as I turn the T.V. off, close the windows of my email, blog, Facebook pages and Twitter feed….Ahh, that’s better. Now, I can turn my full attention to the task at hand.) It is natural for minds to switch from one topic to another, and thoughts become scattered. However, it is imperative to concentrate when one is reading a novel. So, provide students with the opportunity to read.


The main writing task in this scenario is the speech that will be presented. Ensure that the students understand their presentation needs to flow with the presentations of their group members. The teacher will be able to give advice and assistance, however, they will be evaluated by their peers in the Book Clubs, first.

It will be easy to write about a novel if the students become involved, and interested in what they are learning. It will also be easier for them to retain information. Encourage students to read over their notes and identify key concepts, after each lesson. When students type, or write these concepts, they will become an outline for their speech. When students complete this activity, they are writing, and reading, actively.

Real – Life Experiences

Computers and technology are a part of our real – life experiences. Encourage students to read novels on e-books, accessed through on-line sources. Complete their research using the internet, and type their notes on a tablet, or notebook computer. Use the speech – to – text software on their phones to record lectures, and Book Club sessions. Encourage them to present a part of their speech using PowerPoint, or create a web site. This will assist in increasing their self – esteem because they will be able to use something familiar to them.

Using technology, reading, writing, and speaking together about a common novel will increase said abilities of Senior English students in High School will help to ensure their success in the world outside of the school walls.


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