(reviewed Winter 2011)
Reviewer: Andrea Washburn
This I Believe is a Web site archive of over 90,000 short personal essays about beliefs, some of them audio recorded so that the user can listen along while reading the essay. The site is run by the nonprofit This I Believe, Inc., and includes free educational curricula to help learners explore their beliefs and then compose essays which can be added to the archive.
This Web site is relatively clear and easy to navigate, but busy. As a nonprofit, This I Believe, Inc. is working hard to keeps its revenues flowing. On the left half of the home page, for example, there are six-lines describing the nonprofit itself, followed by sections extolling its newest book for sale, asking for business or organizational sponsorship, asking for donations, and encouraging purchases at its gift shop (books, CDs, mugs, shirts, and totes). The right half of the home page cycles between the featured book (for sale), the featured essay, a special feature, and a highlight from community activity. All this “stuff” can make it hard to figure out where to go.
This I Believe, Inc. was founded in 2004 as a nonprofit organization to engage youth and adults in writing and sharing brief essays about the core values that guide their lives. It is based on the 1950s radio program of the same name, hosted by Edward R. Morrow. The Web site includes essays from the Morrow show as well as contemporary ones. It also provides guidelines for those who want to submit their own short (350-500 words) essays for the archive, and free downloadable curricula on writing these essays for middle school, high school, college, and lifelong learner audiences. The high school one is 39 pages. While free, the Web site strongly encourages a $10 donation through PayPal.
Although the site is not intended for ESL students, it could be useful to them as listeners or writers. The audio accompanying many of the essays has a wide range of voices, including regional accents as well as immigrants from many parts of the world. And for those advanced students ready to tackle the essay, there are many thousands of examples that can be browsed by theme or special features.
Subject Headings: ESL students, essay writing, listening