How Does Reading Empower Us?

Author: Jill Torrey Emmons

Time: 1 class period
Materials: None


This lesson will consist of a timed writing in which students will have a chance to explain the ways that literacy empowers people. Using evidence from the texts we have read in the previous three days, they will compare and contrast an individual’s success in life before and after he/she learned to read. Students may also decide to include or reference their own personal reading experiences with those of the specific individuals studied. Encouraging the students to compare their lives to those of the readers we are studying will hopefully show them that they too can achieve great things by reading.

Purpose – This lesson has a two-fold purpose; it is a chance for students to explain what they have learned about how reading empowers people, and gives the teacher an opportunity to do an in-depth assessment of student abilities and understanding.

Students will be able to:
1. Explain how reading empowers individuals by comparing and contrasting their live situations before and after their reading skills were acquired.
2. Connect to the text they have read by linking it to their own reading experiences.

National English Education Standard
Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

Teacher Background
Teachers should keep in mind the constraints of timed writing assignments in order to fairly assess student progress.

Resource Websites

None for this lesson.



1. At the beginning of class instruct students to take out the notes they have written over the past few days of class concerning the ways in which literacy empowers people of many different backgrounds. Give them a few minutes to review these notes and the texts they have read so far this week. Ask them to also reflect on their own experiences with reading; are there similarities between their experiences and those of the authors? Inform the class that they will be asked to synthesize all they have discovered about the connection between reading and social power.

2. After giving the class 5-10 minutes to review their notes and texts, have students take out several sheets of paper to do a timed writing. This assignment should be written in essay form; the instructor may set any further parameters. The class is to have approximately 40 minutes to write on the following prompt:

  • “Consider the three texts we have read on the importance of literacy. In each case, the ability to read has made a significant impact on a person’s or even a whole country’s way of life. In an academic essay, explain three ways in which reading can empower people in spite of cultural or economic challenges. Be sure to use evidence from the texts we have read to support your claims.”

Students will turn in essays at the end of the period to be assessed.

Embedded Assessment
The teacher will assess student progress by evaluating their in-class writings. Remember that students only have a limited amount of time to compose their essays, and therefore you may want to make allowances for mistakes in spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. The important thing to look for is if students can explain three specific ways in which reading empowers the individual.


Embedded Assessment



PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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