English Reading Exercises for B2 – The Help

1. Complete the sentences with the phrasal verbs below.

got ahead      helps out      set up      squeeze in      stepped down      thinking up

1   Sam ____________ by working hard and showing enthusiasm.

2   The doctor said he could ____________ me ________ for a quick appointment at 11.45.

3   Andy has ____________ as the head of the charity and he is going to work in politics instead.

4   mum ____________ the company ten years ago and it now employs over a hundred people.

5   Sara’s always ____________ crazy new ideas for vlogs that never work!

6   Harry ____________ at the homeless centre by cooking in the kitchen two evenings a week.

Show answers

1 got ahead   2 squeeze (me) in   3 stepped down

4 set up   5 thinking up   6 helps out

2. You are going to read an extract from the novel The Help. The author writes dialogues using the language conventions of the southern states of the USA. Rewrite the sentences below in standard British English.

1 This what she been trying to ask me the past two weeks.

     ________.

2 “You think Miss Leefolt gone agree to that?”

     ________.

3 “__ do that not sound kind a dangerous to you?”

     ________.

The Help

Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help is set in the 1960s, a time when the Civil Rights movement is campaigning all across the USA for equal rights for African Americans. Skeeter Phelan, a white woman wants to write a book to protest against the unfair treatment of African Americans – a book about the experiences of African American maids who work for white families. In this extract, Skeeter asks Aibileen, a black maid, if she can interview her.

[A ]

“What can I do for you?”

“I have an idea. Something I want to write about. But I need your help.”

I let all breath out. I like Miss Skeeter, but come on. Sure, a phone call would a been nice. She never would a just shown up on some white lady’s step without calling. But no, she done plopped herself down like she got ever right to barge in on me at home.

“I want to interview you. About what it’s like to work as a maid.” (__)

“Like the Miss rna column?” I say, flat as a pan. “Bout cleaning?”

“Not like Miss rna. I’m talking about a book,” she say and her eyes is big. She excited. “Stories about what it’s like to work for a white family. What it’s like to work for, say ___ Elizabeth.”

[B ]

I turn and look at her. This what she been trying to ask me the past two weeks in Miss Leefolt kitchen. “You think Miss Leefolt gone agree to that? Me telling stories about her?”

Miss Skeeter’s eyes drop down come. “Well, no. I was thinking we wouldn’t tell her. I’ll have to make sure the other maids will agree to keep it secret, too.”

I scrunch up forehead, just starting to get what she’s asking. “Other maids?”

“I was hoping to get four or five. To really show what it’s like to be a maid in Jackson.” (__)

[C ]

She looks excited, like this is some kind of game. For a second, I think I might be more mad than I am tired.

“Miss Skeeter,” I whisper, “do that not sound kind a dangerous to you?”

“Not if we’re careful–”

“Shhh, please. Do you know what would happen to me if Miss Leefolt find out I talked behind her back?”

“We won’t tell her, or anyone.” She lowers her voice some, but not enough. “These will be private interviews.”

I just stare at her. Is she crazy? “Did you hear about the colored boy this morning? One they beat with a tire iron for accidentally using the white bathroom?”

She just look at me, blink a little. “I know things are unstable but this is–”

“And m cousin Shinelle in Cauter Country? They burn up her car cause she went down to the voting station.”

“No one’s ever written a book like this,” she say, finally whispering, finally starting to understand, I guess. “We’d be breaking new ground. It’s a brand-new perspective.”

Show answers

This is what she has been trying to ask me (for) the past two weeks.

2 Do you think Miss Leefolt is going to agree to that?

3 Doesn’t that sound kind of dangerous to you?

Reading Strategy

Read all the text once and then read the questions. Match any questions that are immediately obvious, and identify and note the parts of the text that contain the evidence for your answer. Then carefully read each section of the text again and look for the answers to the remaining questions.

3. Read the Reading Strategy. Match sections A-C in the extract with questions 1-6 below. Each section may be matched with more than one question.

Which section ___

1 gives examples of violent racism?

2 talks about the number of interviews that Miss Skeeter wants to do?

3 discusses the consequences of helping Miss Skeeter for the narrator?

4 mentions Miss Skeeter realising that the situation is more difficult than she imagined?

5 talks about not telling anyone about the plan?

6 suggests that Miss Skeeter’s behaviour is rude?

Show answers

1 C   2 B   3 C   4 C   5 B   6 A

Extra exercises

Strategy

When you do a gapped-sentences task, look at the connecting words in options A-E for clues about what must go before or after them.

1. Read the Strategy and look at sentences A-E in exercise 2. Find and underline the connecting words. What do they indicate: result, reason, purpose, or contrast?

Show answers

A However – contrast

B So as not to – purpose

C Owing to – reason

D As a result – result E Although – contrast

2. Read the text where four sentences are missing. Match the missing sentences (A-E) with the gaps (1-4). There is one extra sentence.

Boston Tea Party

One the cold winter night of 16 December 1773, a group of American colonists approached there British ships anchored in Boston harbour. 1 ____ . Once they had boarded the vessels and located the tea that the ships were carrying, they proceeded to empty all 342 of the chests into the sea, destroying their contents forever. At the time, they may not have been aware of the far-reaching implications their actions would have.

The protest, which came to be known as the Boston Tea Party, had its roots in the growing friction between the North American colonists and the British Parliament over the question of taxation. According to the colonists, the British had no right to make them pay taxes as the colonists were not represented in parliament. 2 ____ . Things came to a head on 10 May 1773 when the Tea Act was passed, which required colonists to purchase only British tea. Although cheaper than other teas, this tea was taxed, a fact that the colonists refused to tolerate.

In New York, Philadelphia and Charleston, the colonists had managed to persuade the authorities to reject the tea shipments that had arrived, forcing the ships to return to Britain. 3 ____ . It was the tea that was the cause of their complaint, not the ships, so it was the tea that the colonists destroyed. After three hours, 45 tons of it had been dumped into the harbour, a quantity that would be worth around a million dollars today. Not surprisingly, the British were furious.

In response to the action, Parliament passed a set of laws known as the Coercive Acts in an attempt to assert more control over the Boston settlement. The measure had the opposite effect, however, and only succeeded in provoking the other colonies in the area. 4 ____ . This eventually culminated in the American War of Independence (1775-1783), which led to the creation of the nation we now know as the United States of America. It was the Boston Tea Party that set the wheels of independence in motion.

A However, the governor in Boston refused to cooperate, so the colonists took matters into their own hands.

B So as not to reveal their identity, some of them were disguised as Native Americans.

C Owing to the popularity of tea in Europe, rival companies had been set up to import tea from China.

D As a result, all thirteen of them met at the 1774 First Continental Congress to discuss their collaborative resistance to the British.

E Although the colonists had been protesting against this for some time, their voices had fallen on deaf ears.

Show answers

1 B  2 E  3 A  4 D