Image licensed under CC BY 2.0

Fighting Illiteracy with "A Lesson Before Dying"

In Ernest J. Gaines’s 1993 novel A Lesson Before Dying, the central character, Jefferson—a young black man living in the segregated South in 1948—is accused of murder and faces the possibility of the death penalty. Readers learn that Jefferson is illiterate, and that, as a result, he lacks confidence and self-worth. To spare him the pain of facing death without dignity, his family hires a teacher to help him learn to read and write. Listen to the audio story to learn how Gaines’s character develops “pride through learning.”


Tweet Share on Facebook

Want to Listen?

TEACHERS: Access our daily current events podcasts for free!

To access our podcast library for ELA, Social Studies, and Science including all of our Premium features, choose the free Premium Trial (no credit card required!) option when you join.

Already a Member? Login Now

Story Length: 6:33

Listen to the Story:

Listening Comprehension Questions

  • In what ways did Andrew Carnegie’s libraries serve their communities?
  • How did Carnegie benefit from a library when he was growing up?
  • Which personality traits helped propel Carnegie from poverty to riches? Bring specific details from the story to support your ideas.
  • According to Carnegie, what should rich people do with their money and why? Why was Carnegie known as both generous and “brutal”?

Discussion Themes

  • In your opinion, what should really rich people do with their fortunes?
  • What does it take for a person to rise from “rags to riches”?

Socrative users can import these questions using the following code: SOC-1234

Listening Organizers

  • Fact, Question, Response

  • Language Identification Organizer

  • Deeper Meaning Chart