Listening Topic: Literature – Interview about Artists for Literacy

A. Listen to the interview. Then choose the correct answer to the question.

What does the organization Artists for Literacy do?

      a   It raises money for literacy programs.

      b   It provides tutors to help children learn to read.

      c   It provides songs for teachers to use to encourage students to read.

B. Listen to the interview again. As you listen, circle the correct word or phrase to complete each statement. Listen again if necessary.

1   Statistics show that the top 2 percent of students in the United States read for 20 / 65 minutes a day.

2   It’s hard to get children to read because they can’t read well / they prefer to watch TV or listen to music.

3   The artists that Gwyneth Dunne mentions have all written novels, stories, or poems / songs inspired by literature.

4   In the classroom, teachers usually have students listen to the songs and then read the book / read the book and then listen to the songs.

5   In a recent project, the students made their own paintings / wrote their own songs about a novel they had read.

6   The project started when the founder of the organization heard a program about a book / performed a song she had written on the radio.





1   65

2   they prefer to watch TV or listen to music

3   songs

4   listen to the songs and then read the books

5   wrote their own songs about a novel they had read

6   performed a song she had written on the radio


A: Host, B: Gwyneth Dunne

A:   Good morning. The topic for today is literacy and young people. Statistics show that a love of reading has a big influence on children’s academic success. The top two percent of students in the country read for 65 minutes a day; the top ten percent read for twenty minutes a day. In contrast, the bottom 10 percent read for one-tenth of a minute per day … that’s basically not at all.

Now the best way to improve students’ reading is to get them to read more. But teachers will tell you that motivating children to read can be difficult when they prefer to watch television or listen to music.

Today we’re going to learn about an organization that uses music to get students interested in reading. And here to talk about it is Gwyneth Dunne. Welcome to the studio.

B:   Thank you.

A:   Tell us about Artists for Literacy.

B:   Well, we collect songs that have been inspired by literature … for example, a song that has been written about a character, or a situation in a book … and then we make the song available to teachers. There are a lot of popular songs that have been inspired in one way or another by literature.

A:   Oh! Like The Beatles wrote “I am the Walrus.” Wasn’t that inspired by a poem by Lewis Caroll?

B:   Yes, it was, but also U2, Metallica, Sting … they all wrote songs that were inspired by a novel, or a story, or a poem that they had read. So we compile CDs of songs inspired by literature and the artists donate the songs. So, for example, we’ve got Suzanne Vega’s song, “Calypso.” That was inspired by Homer’s Odyssey. Bruce Springsteen’s song, “The Ghost of Tom Joad” … that was inspired by a Steinbeck novel.

A:   And teachers use the music in the classroom. I guess you’re looking at, what, middle school? high school?

B:   Both. Both middle and high school teachers use them. Teachers in adult literacy programs use them too, actually.

A:   What do the teachers do with the CDs? How do they use the songs?

B:   They play the songs and they study the lyrics, and that gives the students an idea of the plot, or the story, or the characters that are in the book. Sometimes there’s a video they can watch, and … oh, we have interviews with the artists too, on our Web site. It all helps to get students interested, and then they’re more ready to read the book.

A:   That sounds great! I guess reading is scary to a lot of kids. But music isn’t.

B:   Yeah. We also did a project where students read a novel. And then they wrote and performed their own songs about the story. So it works the other way around too!

A:   How did this organization come about?

B:   Well, the founder of the organization, Deborah Pardes, wrote a song that was inspired by the book Angela’s Ashes, and she performed the song on the radio. And after the performance, the radio station got a lot of e-mails from listeners, asking about the book. So she realized that listening to the song got people interested in reading the book.

A:   That’s an inspiring story. Gwyneth, thank you for being with us today.

B:   You’re welcome.

A:   For more information about Artists for Literacy, go to the Web site at …

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