Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.61

     challenging words:    agreeable, disobedience, eulogy, long-nosed, manuscript, misunderstand, passionate, queer-mouthed, transcendentalists, uncouth, lasting, surveyor, tragedy, tuberculosis, literature, exam
     content words:    Henry David Thoreau, David Thoreau, Harvard University, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walden Pond, Waldo Emerson

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Henry David Thoreau
By Colleen Messina

1     Many people like to take walks in the woods. Some people collect bugs or leaves. Others like the peace that they find among the quiet trees. Henry David Thoreau was an American writer who wrote his most famous book, Walden, about time that he spent in the woods. He remembered taking walks in nature with his family when he was a boy and used his experiences to inspire his writings.
2     Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts. His parents spent a lot of time with their children outside, and young Henry learned to love nature. One of his first memories was "looking through the stars to see if I could see God behind them." He thought about deep things, but this made other children misunderstand him sometimes. Henry went to public school but liked to be alone a lot. The other children thought that he was too somber.
3     Henry's parents wanted him to have an excellent education. They saved their money so that he could attend Harvard University. Henry didn't do well on the entrance exam. Perhaps he got nervous about tests. He made up for it later, though, by becoming one of the top students in his class. Thoreau became very sick with tuberculosis in 1835, and this disease affected him for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, he graduated from Harvard in 1837. At that time, the smart young man was not sure about what he wanted to do with his life.
4     Thoreau may have had a brilliant mind, but he would have never won a beauty pageant. He called his nose his "most prominent feature." Another famous writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, had this to say about Thoreau's appearance: "Thoreau is as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and rustic, though courteous manners...But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty."
5     Thoreau decided that he wanted to become a teacher. He began working at a school in Concord. Students didn't like him! They thought that he was too strict and gruff. They didn't like the way he taught his classes. Maybe they didn't like his nose. Teachers didn't like him, either. In any case, Thoreau resigned from teaching after only two weeks. Thoreau then started his own school with his brother, John, and they started some new ideas for education. They tried new ideas with their students, like taking them on long walks in the woods. Thoreau liked teaching in this new way, but soon tragedy struck.

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