using Henry's Freedom Box in speech therapy
Frequent Speech Sounds:

/sl/ initial
/r/ medial (Henry)
/v/ final
/ks/ final (box)


Black History Month

Book Details:
Diverse Characters: Yes
Age Recommendation: Elementary, Late Elementary, Middle School

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

By Ellen Levine

Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom.

This extraordinary Black History Month book can be used in speech therapy to address social/emotional issues like complex emotions, slavery, and perseverance. It is also great for noticing character expressions and for targeting character analysis as well as for predicting and inferencing! Discover more of the speech and language teaching concepts for using Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad in speech therapy below: 

Key Teaching Concepts

Narrative Structure:

complete episode
expository text

Narrative Concepts:

character analysis
figurative language
verbs (mental state)
verbs (linguistic)
verbs (regular past tense)
verbs (present progressive)
text features
illustration study


order of events that gets Henry to freedom


master, beckoned, obey, mistress, excuse, vitriol, clerk, imagine, pried

Character Analysis:

Henry overcomes adversity and makes his way to freedom with the help of a kind doctor.


complex emotions (lonely, lucky, worried, afraid)
facial expressions
body language

Figurative Language:

similes (torn from the trees like slave children are torn from their families)
idioms (heart twisted in his chest)


verbs (mental state)
verbs (linguistic)
verbs (regular past tense)
verbs (present progressive)

Text Features:

exclamation marks
question marks


Why was Henry’s heart beating fast when he was beckoned by his master?
How did Henry and his mother feel about the master giving Henry to his son?
What did Henry and the others think of the new master?
Why didn’t he dare to sing in the street?
Why was Nancy worried?
Why do you think Henry tried to forget what Nancy said?
How do you think Henry felt as his family was taken away?
How did his kids feel?
Why do you think he tried to think of happier times?
Why did he write “This side up with care” on the box?
Why do you think Dr. Smith helped Henry?
How do you think he felt in the box for that long and upside down?
What was Henry thinking while in the box?
How do you think he felt when he finally arrived in Philadelphia?


What do you think will happen when they agree to meet again?
Do you think what Nancy said will happen?
What do you think will happen to Nancy and the kids?
How do you think Henry will get free?
What do you think will happen to Henry in the box?