Helen Keller (3)


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“Self-pity is our worst enemy.” —Helen Keller

This story is about Helen Keller. She wants to learn English. She wants to speak English. She wants to read English. She wants to hear people speak English. She is very intelligent. She is very brave. But she is blind. She cannot see. She is deaf. She cannot hear. And she is dumb; she cannot speak.  

     She makes her own words. When she pulls her mother’s dress it means, “Come with me.” When she wants her father, she makes circles with her fingers near her eyes. This is because her father wears glasses. This is how she “speaks”. She knows things by how they smell. She knows a flower by its smell. She knows bread by smell and taste. But she is too intelligent to be without real words.

     How do you teach someone to know words, to read and to speak who cannot see or hear? 

     When Helen was six years old, her mother read a story by Charles Dickens. He was a very famous author in England. The story said that a deaf and blind child named Laura went to a special school where she learned a special language. The special language was invented by a man named Alexander Graham Bell. (Mr. Bell invented the telephone.) Mr. Bell made an alphabet using your hands. Helen’s parents took her to the special school Helen’s mother read about. That is where Helen met Annie Sullivan. Annie was Helen's teacher and helper for 50 years!  

     When Annie first met Helen, Annie was only 20 years old. Annie was an orphan (her mother and father both died). Annie knew what it meant to have a hard life. She did not give Helen pity! She did not think that Helen was a girl with no hope. Annie had much courage. She had much patience. Annie worked very, very hard.  She wanted to give Helen words. Words are light. 

    Day after day Annie taught Helen.  She gave her a doll and spelled
D-O-L-L in her hand. Annie made the letters with her fingers in Helen’s hand. She put a piece of cake in Helen’s hand and spelled cake. She put a flower in Helen’s hand and spelled flower. She did this again and again. She put hundreds and hundreds [100s and 100s] of things in Helen’s hand and spelled the word. After many months, one day Helen understood! Annie poured water on Helen’s hand and Helen spelled “water” herself.  Helen understood. She was given the world of words! If Helen understood one word she can understand every word. After much hard work, Helen understands nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. She learns every word you and I know.


noun: a name for a person, place, thing 

verb: an action word [read, write, speak, run]

adjective: a word that describes a noun [good book]

adverb: a word that describes a verb [run quickly]


Helen went to school. Annie was there to help her. Annie read books to her, spelling every letter and every word in the books! To speak in school, Helen spelled words into Annie’s hand and Annie said them for her. But Helen wanted to speak herself!  But how? By touching Annie’s throat, mouth and nose, Helen  “felt” the words and slowly learned to speak.

     When Helen was 19 she went to Radcliff University. It is one of the best universities in America. Helen began to write books about her life.  She wrote, “I learned that everything has a name. And each name is a new thought.” She tells people in her first book, “In my mind, I am as free as any person.” She graduated from Radcliff with highest honors. People all over the world learned about her.

     Helen worked her whole life to help blind people. She also helped us all understand that we can be stronger than our problems.

You can hear Helen speak in the film below and see how she was taught.

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flower basket


         For Nazom—


Annie reading to Helen

We feel sad for a person like Helen Keller if we think that our eyes and our ears are the only way we can experience [take part in] the beauty of the world. But what happens to our happiness when we see terrible things? Or what happens to our peace when we hear awful sounds? Is there something more important than our eyes and ears? 
      Helen Keller once wrote an essay about real happiness. She said that some people find happiness in money. Other people find happiness in power. And some people find happiness in being famous.  But she wrote: “. . . very few seek it [look for it] by exploring [by looking into] their own minds, or in the search for knowledge.”  Have you ever thought of your mind and your thoughts as the source [the place to get] happiness?

     Helen looked for happiness in words, and in thoughts and ideas. And, finding happiness there, she learned that nothing could take it away. She believed that sad, or wrong thoughts [thoughts that made people do bad things] are darker than the darkness of someone who cannot see! Once she was given words, Helen was given light. To her, each word was as bright as the light you and I see.  In her mind, she “saw” things through words. She said that this way to see things is very, very beautiful.

     She wrote, “Once I knew the depth [a place] where no hope was, and darkness covered everything. Then love came and set my soul free. Once I knew only darkness and stillness. Now I know hope and joy. Once I fretted [cried] and beat myself against the wall that shut me in. [The “wall” that shut her in was being blind and deaf.] Now I rejoice [I have much joy] in the consciousness [understanding] that I can think, act and attain [reach] heaven. . . . Night fled [ran away] with the day of thought. Love, joy and hope came. . . . With the first word I used intelligently, I learned to live, to think, to hope. Darkness cannot shut me in again.”

     Words, thoughts, and ideas gave Helen a life as rich as anyone’s life who sees and hears. The more you read all the beautiful stories Helen wrote, the more you understand this. In many ways, her life was more beautiful and more rich than many people who have eyes and ears!  Her favorite words were the words of philosophers and religious people. They gave her much comfort. They wrote that material things are a “shadow” of something more real. They wrote that material things are a “copy” of thoughts and ideas.  And so, thoughts and ideas are more real than the material things. Everything you see or hear, you can describe with beautiful words. And words can never be destroyed. But no “thing” lasts forever. For example, philosophers wrote that you can cut down a tree, but you cannot destroy the idea of a tree. The love of a friend can be with you even when the friend is not with you.
      Helen Keller believed there is no greater gift on earth than words. Words opened her thinking, like unlocking the door into a beautiful house. Words honored her ability to think. For her, thinking was “hearing”.  Thinking was “seeing”.  Is that true for us too?

 § •  NEW WORDS  • §

orphan: a child without a mother or father.
pity: to feel sorrow or kindness toward someone because of their problems.
hopeless: without hope.
courage: to not be afraid; to have strength and confidence.
patience: to wait calmly and quietly for something to happen.
throat: the part of your body between your head and body.
graduate: to finish school.
experience: something that happens; an event.
explore: to look into a place, or look into a subject, to learn more about it.
famous: very well known. 
seek: to look very hard for something. 
knowledge: facts you can learn and know; what someone knows.
consciousness: the mental quality that makes you aware of things around you. 
unlock: to open something that is locked [closed so that others cannot open it].
describe: to tell about something; to paint a picture with words.

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 ©InterestEng. July 2013 - April 2022 §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff photos or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com