Comprehension of Written Texts

Your Sense of Feeling

In the skin at the tips of your fingers there are special spots that help you feel. Nerves run to them and spread out. The more of these spots you have, the better you can feel. There are many at your fingertips which make them sensitive. There are also many in the skin of your lips and the tip of your tongue.

Your forehead and the palms of your hands will feel the slightest weight or touch. But the skin on your chin needs something twenty times as heavy to feel the same.

Your sense of heat and cold is different. A special set of nerves makes this possible in your body. If you take something cold, like the tip of a lead pencil, and pass it across your cheek, you will find that it feels colder in some spots than others.

Similarly, there is the sense of pain. It too has its special nerves. Some people who have something wrong with these nerves can feel heat, cold and touch. They cannot, however, feel a pin prick which normally would hurt.

Clever Dog

A Polish legend tells about a ventriloquist named Kosiuski. This man had a dog that he had taught to move its lips as if it were talking. He was pretending to have a conversation with the dog one day in front of a Russian officer. The Russian had never heard of ventriloquism, and believed the dog was really speaking.

The Russian said: 'My old father lives alone. What a treat it would be for him to have a dog to talk to. Would you sell it to me?'

'No, the dog is my friend,' said Kosiuski.

'But you can teach another dog to talk,' persisted the Russian.

In the end, Kosiuski exchanged his dog for a fine horse that the Russian owned. The Russian returned to his country with the dog.

A year later the officer came back and found Kosiuski. He asked him to return the horse, saying that the dog had not spoken one word.

'But what language did you use?' asked Kosiuski.

'Russian, of course!'

'Then naturally a Polish dog did not understand.' He then turned to the dog.

'Hector, why didn't you answer when this man spoke?'

The dog moved his lips and a voice said: 'I can't speak every language.'

The furious officer then challenged Kosiuski to a duel. Kosiuski accepted and chose to fight with knives. He picked up a large knife and made a horrible face as he pretended to sharpen it on his tongue. The officer, seeing this, was so scared that he ran away. Kosiuski never saw him again.

A House to Live in Forever

Egyptians long ago thought that the short life they lived was only the beginning. After death, they believed everyone went on living forever in another world. This meant that they were less interested in building fine homes, and were more interested in building tombs. Of course, poor people could not afford them - only the kings and queens and the rich.

A king or queen's tomb often had many rooms connected to the one where the body lay. In the rooms were placed things needed, like chairs, tables, combs, mirrors and even food and wine. Toys have been found in tombs where royal children were buried.

Not everyone could read in Egypt. Most kings and queens had been taught. In all important tombs, the Egyptians placed a set of writings called the 'Book of the Dead.' It contained stories of the gods. It was painted by artists and old writing was done by scribes. They hoped that the dead person would enjoy their works.

We can see the kinds of pictures that were painted in the 'Book of the Dead' by looking in most encyclopaedias. The pictures, in colour, look flat. There is no light or shade. All faces are turned sideways even if the body is facing you.

The Bird that Kicks

Imagine being killed by a bird! This could happen if you were kicked by an ostrich. You would at least have one or more broken limbs. All birds which cannot fly, and are related to the ostrich, have resorted to kicking. They cannot fly away from an enemy, so they must from time to time stay and fight it out on the ground.

We are not sure why ostriches lost the use of their wings. We know this bird lives on the open plains of Africa. It kept company with zebras, antelopes and other grass-eating animals. Like these animals, they only needed to run away from lions or cheetahs to be safe. So these birds became expert sprinters as their legs grew. It has been estimated that an ostrich can reach a speed of 90 kilometres an hour. There was no need to fly and their bodies became more and more bulky until their wings were unable to lift them into the air.

There is no truth in the old story that ostriches bury their heads in sand and think themselves safe from an enemy. The young, and sometimes a parent, will stretch their necks flat in the sandy ground as they cower down. All they are doing is making themselves less visible.