October 3:  Read an Essay Out Loud Day

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On this day in 1890, Harvard Professor Barrett Wendell read an essay aloud to his class of 50 undergraduate English students.  The essay was written by one of the students in the class, a student who would go on to become one of the most important African-American intellectuals and leaders of his generation.  The essay’s author was W.E.B. Du Bois, who signed up for the class because he realized that without the ability to write well, his ideas would never be taken seriously.

Du Bois’ essay was the only one that Professor Wendell read aloud that day.

Formal photograph of W. E. B. Du Bois, with beard and mustache, around 50 years oldDu Bois went on the say many things well as an activist, a sociologist, and a historian.  In 1895, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard, and in 1909 he co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  He worked his entire life for the cause of civil rights, and he died on August 27, 1963 — one day before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Extra-Sensory Reading

What is the value of reading out loud as a way of reading and of revising your writing?  Reading words aloud or hearing your words read aloud by someone else allows you to experience them in a different way than just seeing them.  Listening and speaking the words involve different senses than just reading with your eyes, allowing you to catch nuances or areas for revision that you might not catch otherwise.  Exchange some of your writing with a partner.  Read each other’s writing with your eyes first, highlighting the parts you particularly like. Then, take turns reading and listening to each other’s writing. (Common Core Writing 5 – Writing Process)

1-W.E.B. Du Bois (Bloom’s Modern Critical Views) Harold Bloom, editor. Chelsea House Publications, 2002.

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