Sunday, February 28, 2010

Clara Maass, a True Heroine - from Edcon Publishing.

A brave nurse was willing to risk death from a mosquito bite.

The world in the 1880s was a difficult one for Clara Maass. As the oldest of nine children, she had to help care for her brothers and sisters and had little time for play. When she was twelve years old, Clara Maass did not dream that one day she would be an American heroine. Because her parents were so poor, Clara had taken a job as a mother's helper. She lived with another family and cleaned their home and took care of their children. In return for her work, she received her meals, a bed, and time to attend school. Somehow she managed to complete three years of high school.

Clara tried to help her own family in any way she could. At fifteen, she found a paying job with an orphanage. Most of her wages were sent home to her mother. At the age of sixteen, Clara learned that a nearby hospital wanted to train young women as nurses. Also, there would be no charge for the training. Clara visited the hospital to inform the head nurse that she wished to study nursing. Although a school regulation required students to be at least twenty, Clara was accepted.

She studied hard and worked hard. She learned how to maintain hospital standards and how to distribute medicine to patients. After her graduation she continued working at the hospital where she had been trained. She was such a good nurse that hospital officials promoted her to the position of head nurse. In 1898, war started between the United States and Spain. Cuba was the battlefield, and the United States Army was in need of nurses. Many soldiers who had not been wounded in combat were dying of tropical diseases. Clara volunteered to be an army nurse and hoped the army would summon her to a military camp. At last she was ordered to Florida.

She enjoyed her work and shared a tent with three other nurses at the camp. Then she was sent to Georgia and finally to Cuba.
Clara had never before been in a foreign country, and Cuba was very different from her home in New Jersey. The tropical birds and flowers fascinated the young nurse. The swarming insects were less appealing.

While in Cuba, she witnessed yellow fever for the first time. No one knew what caused the dreaded disease, which could be fatal. Its victims suffered aches and pains, and their skins usually turned yellow. Doctors did not know how to prevent or treat the illness.

When Clara's work in Cuba ended, she returned to the New Jersey hospital. Then the army summoned her to the Philippine Islands where she nursed troops for seven months. While there, she caught a disease which the natives called "breakbone fever." Every bone and muscle in her body ached. Doctors ordered her back to New Jersey to recover.

In 1900, the United States Army appointed a group to 38 determine how yellow fever spread and how to cure it. After months of experiments, army doctors in Cuba believed they had found the answers. Mosquitoes that had bitten yellow fever victims spread the disease by biting healthy people. The doctors' next step was an attempt to kill all the deadly insects on the island.
Nurses were needed to care for the sick in Cuba. In response to a request, Clara asked to be sent there. She was now twenty-five years old and planning to marry. She knew, however, that her experiences with yellow fever victims would be helpful to the doctors.

Back again in Cuba, Clara learned that yellow fever experiments had not stopped. Some doctors still doubted that mosquitoes spread the disease. Some thought it would be impossible to rid the country of the insects. Others were trying to find a cure for the fever. They needed people who were willing to be bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease. All the volunteers for this experiment, but one, were Cuban men. That one was Clara Maass, the only American and the only woman to risk her life in the tests.

The young nurse had watched many yellow fever patients suffer and die. Knowing how terrible the disease could be, she wanted to do whatever she could to help doctors prevent it. Army regulations said that money would be distributed to those who took part in the tests. Clara planned to send the money she earned to her mother.

On June 24, 1901, Clara calmly watched a mosquito bearing yellow fever bite her hand. Within a few days she developed a slight case of the sickness. Doctors informed her that she could catch the disease again because her illness had been such a mild one.
Clara's response was to volunteer to be bitten again in August. Already in a weakened condition, she became seriously ill. Never, even when she had been sick in the Philippines, had she experienced such pain. Her skin turned yellow, and there was little hope that she would live.

Doctors tried to save her, but Clara died on August 24, 1901. All doubts that mosquitoes spread the disease came to an end and the tests were stopped because of their dangers. For a few days, newspapers told the tale of Clara's brave sacrifice. Then she seemed to be forgotten. The army killed most of the mosquitoes in Cuba and yellow fever almost disappeared.

Fifty years later the yellow fever heroine was again remembered, and Cuba issued a stamp in her honor. In 1952, the hospital in New Jersey changed its name to Clara Maass Memorial Hospital. In 1976, seventy-five years after her death, the United States issued a stamp with Clara's picture. At last, Clara Maass has been honored for her great sacrifice.

1. Clara Maass studied hard to become _______
a. a mother's helper.
b. a nurse.
c. a hospital official.
d. a heroine.

2. While in Cuba, Clara witnessed yellow fever which _____
a. was caused by tropical flowers.
b. was caused by tropical birds.
c. soldiers brought from foreign lands.
d. doctors did not know how to prevent or treat.

3. When Clara was twenty-five, ________
a. she stopped helping others.
b. she used her experiences with yellow fever victims to help others.
c. she attempted to kill all the deadly insects on the island.
d. she became head nurse at the hospital where she had been trained.

4. Yellow fever almost disappeared in Cuba when _______
a. a cure was found for the disease.
b. the one mosquito bearing the disease, died.
c. the one Cuban man bearing the disease, died.
d. the army killed most of the mosquitoes.

5. Yellow fever would be mentioned in a book of _______
a. animal diseases.
b. children's diseases.
c. tropical diseases.
d. mild diseases.

6. Clara Maass was remembered most recently ________
a. when a hospital's name was changed to Clara Maass Memorial Hospital.
b. when Cuba presented a medal to her family.
c. when the United States issued a stamp with her picture.
d. when many newspapers carried stories of her brave sacrifice.

7. Cuba is _______
a. an army camp in Florida.
b. a foreign country.
c. a state near New Jersey.
d. a state between Georgia arid Florida.

8. Most of the people who volunteered for the yellow fever experiment were _______
a. Cuban men.
b. Americans.
c. women.
d. soldiers.

9. Another name for this story could be _______
a. "The War between the United States
and Spain."
b. "A Mosquito's Bite."
c. "Tropical Diseases."
d. "Beyond the Call of Duty.

10. This story is mainly about ______
a. the sacrifice of a brave, young nurse.
b. the problems of controlling mosquitoes.
c. fighting the Spanish-American War in Cuba.
d. nursing soldiers who were wounded in combat.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Hang Gliding" from Edcon Publishing

People you will read about:
Leonardo da Vinci: a great Italian artist and experimental scientist.
Icarus: a man in Greek legends.

For this flyer, an ancient dream has come true.
Harnessed to a sail of metal and fabric, a human bird pushes off the side of a cliff. As the sail fills, we watch from the ground with a feeling of anxious excitement - part fear, part admiration, part pure wonder. We are watching one of man's oldest dreams come true.

The wish to fly was probably born the moment the first human saw the first bird. Ancient myths of many countries tell of men riding the skies on the backs of huge winged creatures or strange contraptions. Perhaps. the story most familiar to us is that of Icarus, who flew on wings made of feathers and wax. So great was the sensation of power and freedom,that Icarus was tempted to fly higher and higher. In the end, he flew too near the sun, and the heat melted the wax of his wings. One by one the feathers dropped, and Icarus fell into the sea.

For centuries, the idea of flying remained a subject for myths and dreams. Among others, the famous Leonardo da Vinci was excited by the idea. About 1500, he designed a pair of wings large enough to carry a man. That experiment was given up when a servant, testing the wings, jumped from a roof and broke his leg.

The age of the airplane began on December 17, 1903, when the Wright brothers made their first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Since then, planes have grown so big and comfortable that the thrill of flying is almost lost. Perhaps that explains the growing appeal of an aerial sport one might have thought had begun and ended with Leonardo's servant.

Hang gliding, one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, takes us back to the early dream of birdlike flight. One advanced type of glider is called "Icarus." Other types actually resemble the W right brothers' plane, but most hang gliders are much simpler than that. Many of those flying from the dunes near Kitty Hawk today look very much like big, brightcolored kites.

In fact, when Francis M. Rogallo first perfected his design for a wing, he could sell it only as a toy kite. Not for ten years, until the early 1960s, were man-sized models of Rogallo's wing to be used for the new sport of gliding.

In 1969, an Australian named Bill Bennett performed daring exhibitions in the United States. Bennett's feats stirred great interest, but he and others were towed by small planes. The sport we now call hang gliding, in which the pilot uses his own muscle power to propel himself into the air, began only in 1971. Injust five years there were over 16,000 members in the United States Hang Gliding Association.

By far the most common type of glider is the Rogallo wing. Though many companies manufacture it in bold, bright colors, few modify its standard design. A large triangle of aluminum tubing covered with sturdy fabric, it weighs about thirty-five pounds. Under the wing, held by six strong wires, is a small triangle called the "trapeze." The pilot hangs from the wing in a harness. He pushes the trapeze forward or back to change the angle and speed of the wing.

In the past, many people had tried to design wings, but failed. The secret of the Rogallo wing is its shape. Moving air above the wing pushes down, while the air underneath pushes up. A rounded hump on top of the wing creates a longer path for the air moving over it. This causes the above-wing pressure to drop slightly. The greater pressure under the wing can then lift it into the air.

Are you ready for your first aerial adventure? You have already spent hours at ground school learning about your glider, how to handle it, and what to expect. Now you and your instructor climb a low dune, carrying your folded wing. The dune is ideal for your initial attempt because no rocks, trees, fences, or power lines can get in your way, and the sand will make a soft landing place in case you don't complete a perfect flight. A light, steady breeze is blowing at about ten miles per hour. Flight conditions couldn't be better.

"We're not going all the way to the top," your instructor reminds you. "A short hop is all we're after the first time."

You double-check every piece of equipment and spend a long time setting up your gear. Finally you get into the harness and snap it carefully to the frame. Lifting the wing until you feel a slight pull on the harness, you bend forward a little, leaning into the 'wind. You check the wind line, the direction of the wind, knowing how important it is to propel yourself straight into it. Your helmet is on, harness tense, wings level, path clear. Raising the nose of your glider a bit, you begin to run, remembering to move smoothly, leaning forward.
Air fills your wing, and suddenly you are flying. Skimming along a foot above the ground, you have done it - you've conquered the skies! You pull the trapeze a fraction of an inch toward you, letting the nose of the glider drop so it will pick up speed. You've been flying for fifteen seconds, and you're almost to the bottom of the dune. Hoping to make a perfect stand-Up landing, you push the trapeze, tilting the wing back so it will catch more air and go into a stall. The timing is a little tricky here, and somehow you find yourself bouncing along the sand on the seat of your pants. No wonder they call this type of landing a "tail burner." But you can't wait to try again. You're eager for the longer, higher flights you know you'll be making soon, and you're eager to prove you can land on your feet.

Though a short, low flight may cause a few bumps and bruises, you don't expect to be hurt badly. Yet there are injuries and deaths from hang gliding accidents. Is hang gliding a dangerous sport? Is the hang glider pilot, like Icarus, always tempted to fly a little longer, a little higher than is really safe?

The United States Hang Gliding Association is an organization which sets safety standards for the sport. Flight schools are listed, and the' USHGA urges that all beginners be trained. Hang gliding sites and pilots are rated on a scale from one to six. A site rated Hang Three, for instance, should be attempted only by pilots with a rating of three or higher. An instructor must have a rating of six.

The organization tells pilots not to build their own wings or modify those they buy. Many accidents are caused by poor equipment, often because gliders are home made or not assembled with care.

The other main cause of accidents is poor judgment. If the wind is too strong, if the trapeze is pushed too far or not far enough, if the site is not safe, if the pilot tries a silly stunt, accidents may happen.

Each time a pilot glides off hanging from a bright Rogallo wing, there is some risk. But with good equipment and good judgment, the modern Icarus can fly as birds do and land on his own two feet.

Comprehension Check. Try doing this as a listening exercise first. Listen, and place a, b, c, or d after each number according to the answer you think is correct. Then, write the following:

1.One of man's oldest longings is _________
a. the wish to design wings.
b. the wish to ride on the backs of birds.
c. the wish to fly.
d. the wish to outdo the Wright brothers.

2. Leonardo da Vinci designed a pair of wings _________
a. large enough to carry a man.
b. too small for any man.
c. to help birds fly higher.
d. to help birds fly faster.

3. The sport we call hang gliding _________
a. became popular early in the 1900s.
b. became popular in the 1970s.
c. may become popular in ten years.
d. has been popular since Icarus.

4. The feats of Bill Bennett might be mentioned in a book called: _________
a. Hang Gliding Before 1970.
b. Hang Gliding After 1970.
c. Hang Gliding without Towing.
d. American Hang Gliding.

5. Hang gliding is most similar to _________
a. the flight of Leonardo da Vinci's
b. birdlike flight.
c. airplane flight.
d. the Wright brothers' flight.

6. The secret of the Rogallo wing is _________
a. its pressure.
b. its weight.
c. its size.
d. its shape.

7. When you try hang gliding for the first time, you carry your wing and double-check your equipment. Next, you _________
a. bend forward, leaning into the wind.
b. set up your gear.
c. snap the harness to the frame.
d. raise the nose of the glider.

8. The sport of hang gliding will probably _________
a. become popular with retired people.
b. become popular in areas with high mountains.
c. provide jobs for people.
d. result in lost business for the airlines.

9. Another name for this selection could be _________
a. "Your Own Wings Do the Flying."
b. "Saving on Airplane Fares."
c. "The Most Dangerous Sport in the World."
d. "A Lesson in Safety."

10. This selection is mainly about _________
a. learning to fly.
b. the invention of the Rogallo wing.
c. the history of flight.
d. the fast-growing sport of hang gliding.

This story is an article from a series of Reading Comprehension Workbooks by Edcon Publishing Group. Edcon Publishing has a very large selection of different types of readings and other
materials for learning. I highly recommend this company. - The Teacher

Hang Gliding: Wikipedia
Hang Gliding, Fort Funston, San Francisco, Youtube
Ridge Soaring at Fort Funston, Youtube
Big Sur Hang Gliding, Youtube
Montegrappa Italy, Hang Gliding Competition, 2008, Youtube
Hang Gliding Two and a Half Days in Cottesloe, Australia

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Shel Silverstein, Writer of "The Giving Tree", from VOA


This is Phoebe Zimmermann.


And this is Steve Ember with People in America in VOA Special English. Today we tell about Shel Silverstein. He was a poet, writer, composer, singer, musician and artist.



Shel Silverstein wrote hundreds of poems and published many books. He is most famous as a writer of books for children. He won several awards for his children’s books. But he also wrote many stories and created many drawings for adults.

Shel Silverstein was born in Chicago, Illinois in nineteen thirty. His birth name was Sheldon Allan Silverstein. Sometimes he called himself Uncle Shelby. He never planned to write children’s books. Still, he is most famous for writing them.

Shel Silverstein once told a reporter that when he was growing up, he wanted to be a good baseball player. He also said he wanted to be popular with girls. But he could not play baseball, and girls did not like him. So he started to draw and write. Shel Silverstein said he developed his own way of writing. By the time girls were interested in him, he found that work was more important.


Shel Silverstein served in the United States Army in the early nineteen fifties. He worked as an artist for the American military newspaper, Pacific Stars and Stripes. eHe He wrote his first book in nineteen fifty-five. “Take Ten” was about life in the army, and included drawings.

After leaving the army, he worked for Playboy magazine for almost twenty years. He wrote stories and drew funny pictures for the publication.

Shel Silverstein was also a musician. He released his first album in nineteen fifty-nine. It is called “Hairy Jazz.” He began writing folk music in the nineteen sixties. Famous artists have recorded his songs. The Irish Rovers, Johnny Cash, and Loretta Lynn have sung his songs. Ten years later, he released “A Boy Named Sue and His Other Country Songs.” The most famous song from the album is called “A Boy Named Sue.” It is about a boy whose father gave him a name usually given to girls. Johnny Cash made the song famous.



Shel Silverstein is best known for his books for children. However, people of all ages like his poems and stories. He published his first children’s book in nineteen sixty-three. It is called “Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back.” It is about a lion that eats hunters and lives like a human. The lion has to make some important decisions.

One year later, Shel Silverstein published what may be his most popular book. It is called “The Giving Tree.” This story is about a boy and a tree that loved him. The tree gives the boy everything until it can give no more. Both adults and children have enjoyed reading this book. This book is still very popular today. It has sold more than five million copies. Listen as Faith Lapidus reads from the beginning of “The Giving Tree.”


There was once a great apple tree and a little boy. They would spend hours and hours together. The boy would play in the tree’s branches, sleep at her roots and eat of her apples. And the tree loved the boy.

One day, the boy came to the tree. The tree was delighted and beckoned, ‘Come and play!’ But the boy was no longer a boy; he was now a young man, and he was interested in making a living, but he didn’t know how.

‘Here,’ the tree said, ‘take my apples and sell them.’ The young man did just that, and the tree was happy.


In the nineteen seventies, Shel Silverstein produced music for several movies. His first movie soundtrack was for the film “Ned Kelly.” It is based on a true story about a famous Australian criminal. Here is a song from the album. It is called “Ned Kelly.”



Shel Silverstein is also famous for his poetry. His first children’s poetry book was “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” It was published in nineteen seventy-four. It contains more than one hundred poems, and many drawings. The poems and drawings are creative, funny and wise. In the book, readers meet a boy who turns into a television set. They meet a girl who eats a whale.

Imaginary creatures like the Unicorn and the Bloath live there. So does a girl called Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who will not take the garbage out. “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is a place where you can wash your shadow. You can plant a garden of diamonds. It is a place where shoes can fly. And a crocodile goes to the dentist because his tooth hurts. Silverstein reads one of the poems in his book, called “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me, Too.”


Shel Silverstein’s second children’s poetry book is called “A Light in the Attic.” It also contains many funny poems and drawings. This book was so popular that it was on the New York Times newspaper’s list of best-selling books for more than three years. Listen as he reads his poem “Ations.”



In the nineteen eighties, Shel Silverstein began writing plays. He wrote about twenty of them. His first play is called “The Lady or the Tiger Show.” It is a funny play about a game show. The game show player has to choose between two doors. Behind one door is a beautiful woman, and behind the other door is a tiger.


Shel Silverstein died of heart failure in nineteen ninety-nine. He was sixty-eight years old. Some of his works were released after his death. Shel Silverstein once said: “I would hope that people, no matter what age, would find something to identify with in my books.” He hoped people would “experience a personal sense of discovery.”

Shel Silverstein once said that he wanted to go everywhere, look at and listen to everything. He said people could go crazy with the wonderful things in life. And he communicated this in all of his writings, drawings and songs. We leave you now with a song by Shel Silverstein that was a huge hit around the world. The Irish Rovers sing “The “Unicorn.”



This program was written by Chi-Un Lee and produced by Lawan Davis. Our studio engineer was Bill Barber. This is Steve Ember.


And this is Phoebe Zimmermann. Listen again next week for People in America in VOA Special English.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Elias Howe, The Inventor of The Sewing Machine. From Edcon Publishing.

Elias Howe was born lame. When he was a boy in Spencer, Massachusetts, he tired very easily. Often he sat around the house, watching his mother work. She labored from daylight until after dark, and he felt bad that he couldn't make her life easier. As she moved about, cooking and washing and sweeping and ironing, he could only sit in the corner and watch. At night, by the light of a small lamp on the kitchen table, she would sew clothing for the entire family. Sewing seemed to be the hardest work she did. She bent her back over the cloth, holding it in the flickering light so that she could see the difficult and close work. Before she could complete a single garment, she had to run her needle and thread in and out of the cloth many times.

Although Elias tired quickly if he worked too long at a time, he had great mechanical ability. He liked to work with small machines. When he did this kind of mechanical work, his hands were sure and clever. He began to get good jobs in the machine industry. At sixteen, he worked in a shop in Lowell, a city near Spencer. He worked for An Davis, who made machines for Harvard professors. Making many different kinds of machines was a good experience.

One day in Mr. Davis's shop, Elias heard a man remark, "If a man wants to get rich, he should invent a sewing machine for women." The others laughed. Many men had tried, but no invention could seem to make a needle and thread to go through cloth as well as a woman could. When Elias was still a young man, he fell in love and married. Soon he saw that his wife was doing the same difficult work with needle and thread that his mother had done. Seeing this made Elias even more determined to make housework easier.

Later, Elias Howe went to Boston to work for a man who made watches and fine instruments. Remembering the remark about a mechanical sewing machine, ' he kept thinking about how one might work. He watched his wife as she sewed. In his spare time he worked on his idea. When he was in his early twenties, he developed a machine that worked like a human arm. It operated in a way similar to the way a person's arm and hand pushed a needle and thread through cloth. Elias Howe was happy that he had succeeded where so many other inventors had failed. Sadly, the machine was not good enough. It would not sew a long enough straight line. Besides, the thread kept breaking or snarling into a knot. People said that the sewing machine made an interesting show, but no one would buy it.

Elias's work in the watch and instrument shop paid him very little money. He had only that small income. Yet he did not quit. From his father and a partner, he got some money to work on a new machine. Within a year he had perfected a better sewing machine. This new machine made 250 stitches a minute, joining two threads so that they would stay in a straight line and hold long pieces of cloth together. Howe went immediately to register the invention so that no one could copy it. But nobody in the United States seemed to be interested in this remarkable invention.

William Thomas, an English manufacturer, asked Howe if he would come to England and work for him. Howe's wife was not well, but they decided that they had no other choice. So Howe took his wife and three small children across the Atlantic Ocean to England. Thomas owned one of the biggest companies in the machine industry. Although he was a wealthy man, Howe received only a small income from him. After three years in England, Howe's wife became so ill that they decided to return to America. He was forced to sell the English rights to his sewing machine to William Thomas for a small amount of money, just about enough to pay for his family's passage back to America.

When Howe reached the United States, he discovered that other men were imitating his designs and selling sewing machines similar to the one he had invented. His wife was dying, and he had no money at all. He determined to fight for whatever money was due him. He took the men to court to get back his rights to the sewing machine. After several years, he won his case. The court declared that because he had registered the invention in his name, he was the one that owned the rights. The other men who had been selling sewing machines similar to his, had to pay him large sums of money.
Soon Elias Howe became wealthy. He was so rich that, during the Civil War, he paid great sums of money to raise and equip an entire regiment of soldiers. Although he could have been an officer if he had wanted to, he served as a private soldier in his own regiment.

After the war ended, he formed the Howe Machine Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His company was a great success. His invention of the sewing machine made the lives of millions of people easier and more pleasant. But there was one great sadness in Howe's life. Both his mother and wife had died before they could benefit from his remarkable invention.

1. Elias Howe often sat and __________
a. watched his mother work.
b. felt sorry he was lame.
c. held a flickering light.
d. helped his mother sew.

2. When Elias was sixteen, he got a job __________
a. selling machines.
b. sewing clothes.
c. making needles and thread.
d. making machines.

3. Elias Howe thought that the hardest kind of housework was __________
a. cooking.
b. sewing.
c. cleaning.
d. ironing.

4. Elias Howe had great __________
a. mechanical ability.
b. ability for doing hard work.
c. sewing ability.
d. ability for selling machines.

5. Elias Howe perfected a machine that ___________
a. made 250 stitches a minute.
b. sewed a very short, straight line.
c. snarled thread into a knot.
d. everyone wanted to buy.

6. When Howe returned to the United States, he found __________
a. he had to pay factory owners large sums money.
b. little interest in sewing machines.
c. other men were selling machines similar to his.
d. many factories in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

7. A new invention should be ____________
a. registered immediately.
b. tried in England.
c. brought to a large factory.
d. sold for a large amount of money.

8. The clothing industry probably grew larger __________
a. as soon as the first sewing machine was made.
b. while Elias Howe was working on his sewing machine idea.
c. before the invention of the sewing machine
d. after the invention of the sewing machine

9.Another name for this story could be ___________
a. "A Trip to England."
b. "A Famous Inventor."
c. "Registering Inventions."
d. "Mechanical Ability."

10. This story is mainly about ____________
a. bad luck.
b. stealing an idea.
c. a great invention.
d. a lame boy.