Episode 25: Reading Literature about Trains

Reading Literature and Listening Comprehension are the goals in this episode as a guest reader shares the story Kate Shelly and the Midnight Express. In this episode, we explore literature about Trains and Railroads.  We have some special guests to help us understand a story that’s based on a real event.  Click here to watch the entire episode.

Reading Literature
Book cover of literature shared by guest Reader Will on Episode 25 of Ramping Up your English.

Segments: If you’re watching by segments, you’ll want to be sure they’re in order.  That way you’ll get the most out of the story Kate Shelly and the Midnight Express. Click on the segments below:

Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

We’re developing listening skills and learning reading strategies to ramp up our English to a higher level.  My guest Will reads to some friends, using expression in his voice to convey the emotions in the story Kate Shelly and the Midnight Express.

We use some strategies like checking for understanding, characterization, and prediction to help understand and stay better engaged with the story. Listeners are at the edge of their seats, eager to see if this young girl can save a train full of people speeding toward a collapsed bridge in the countryside of Iowa.

The conflicts in this story – inner conflict with fear and outer conflict with nature – bring out the character traits of Kate, the protagonist. Reading with expression – as Will did so well – helps bring the story to life.  The take-away? Use these strategies when reading in your target language.  Remember, there’s no law against reading something more than once.

In an academic sense, Reading Comprehension goes far beyond following the plot of the story. Readers are expected to identify the tone of the literature, the type of conflict, as well as Character Traits based on the actions of the character as they strive to resolve the conflict.  Kate Shelly and the Midnight Express presents a great opportunity to reach this level of comprehension.

Language Objective

 Reading Literature: Identify plot, conflict, and character traits of children’s literature using listening skills. Listening Comprehension:Recognize emotional content through reader expression. Use strategies for comprehension of unit literature.

Academic content Objectives

 ELA goals of Reading Comprehension. Transportation: identify and recognize the functions of components of a rail transportation system. History: Recall rail disasters and near-disasters in terms of passenger safety.

Bridge named for over the DesMoines River
This bridge was named after Kate Shelly – the protagonist of the story. It spans the Des Moines River.


Reading Literature: Briefly summarize the story Kate Shelly and the Midnight Express. Be sure to include the main events in the story.

FYI: In Iowa, there’s a bridge named after Kate Shelly in honor of her heroic efforts that saved many lives.  It’s called the Kate Shelly High Bridge.

Click here to navigate to Episode 26.