What are some possible thesis statements and supporting evidence for an essay on "Learning to Read" by Malcolm X?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Learning to Read" is an excerpt from The Autobiography of Malcolm X. In this essay, he speaks about how he learned to read and understand what he read in prison and how his alma mater, or the college he attended, was "books." One thesis statement to explore about this essay is why Malcolm X was so motivated to read. He speaks about how "I became increasingly frustrated at not being able to express what I wanted to convey in letters that I wrote." He finds that while he can speak well, he can't put his thoughts into writing, and he is trying to communicate with Elijah Muhammed of the Nation of Islam. He acutely felt his lack of formal education when trying to write, and this feeling propelled his interest in learning to read.

Another idea for an essay about "Learning to Read" is to compare and contrast the expanding freedom of Malcolm X's mind that comes from reading with the imprisonment of his body. How does his confinement in prison give him freedom to learn? He says, "As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive." While his freedoms are curtailed, reading allows him to expand his mental vistas. 

An essay can explore the ways in which his views of history changed from his reading. While he is in prison, his mind is opened to the horrors of slavery as he learns more about African-American history. As he writes, "My homemade education gave me, with every additional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America." As he reads more, he understands the history of African-Americans and thinks about how that history still affects African-American people in his time.