Flight – a short story for English reading comprehension

This is a short story about a boy and a bird that he has found.

He wants to release it into the wild. Will he be successful? Or will the bird be unable to take flight.

I hope you enjoy this story. You can use it in your ESL class, English class or IELTS class to practice reading. There are some reading comprehension questions after the story and some discussion questions about the theme of the story.

Please let me know your views in the comments below!




“She can fly,” I said. “I’ve trained her.”

My dad didn’t even look at me.

“Rubbish. You got wings? Where are they?”

He pinched my skin between my shoulder blades and laughed. I shook his hand off and held on to the box. Inside the bird flapped around and let out another cry.

She hated being inside that box. But I had to put her in the thing to get her here.

The wind blew harder. Icy-cold in my face.

“That’s a strong wind,” said dad. “Sure that pigeon can fly in this?”

He knew she wasn’t a pigeon.

“She’s not a pigeon,” I said. “I told you before.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right. A seagull. One of those noisy damn things.”

I went to say something but clamped my lips together. He didn’t have one good word for Elsie. That’s what I called her. After mum’s grandmother. Elsie. It just sounded right. An old-fashioned name for her. It suited her.

She flapped around inside the box and screeched. I held tightly onto the sides of it. She moved around so much I nearly dropped the box earlier.

My dad didn’t notice. He was busy telling our neighbour about going to the top of the hill at the end of Station Road.

“Got to let this bird out,” he said. “It’s been with us since he found it on the ground. Surprised it lasted this long to be honest.”

The neighbour gave me a friendly nod but I pretended to be busy securing the box. That’s when Elsie shook about inside and the box nearly fell out my hands.

All the way to Station Road, dad made comment after comment. Always the same thing. That stupid bird won’t fly. That stupid bird is lucky to be alive.

No reason she shouldn’t be alive. I fed her. I made sure she ate every day. Just a little blob when I found her on the ground. She hardly had any feathers and her eyes were almost completely shut. But I touched her and she moved a little bit. So I took her home.

Mum said I couldn’t keep her in the house.

“It’s dirty,” she said. “It might have fleas.”

“She’s a she, mum,” I said. “And she doesn’t have fleas. I washed her.”

I didn’t know what to give her. The pet shop man said that she would die in two days. He wasn’t interested, anyway. I went to the library instead and found a book on birds. There was a picture of a man feeding a baby bird some milk. I didn’t know birds could drink milk. I didn’t know what they drank. All I knew was that I had to feed her something or she would die.

I didn’t want the pet shop man to be right. I wanted to make her live and then go down to his shop and tell him. Tell him to his face.

“So what you planning on doing,” said dad. “Throwing it off the top here?”

He didn’t know anything.

“I’ll help her,” I said. “I’ve been helping her the last two weeks.”

Dad laughed again. The same laugh whenever he thought he was right. A smug laugh, mum called it. But she always smiled when he laughed like that. She liked it when he proved himself right and her wrong. That’s what being married is all about. One person is always right and the other one is always wrong and that’s how they live forever.

I wouldn’t do that.

“Come on then,” said dad. “Get on with it. It’s freezing up here.”

I put the box on the grass and knelt down to open the lid. As I fumbled with the two cardboard flaps, Elsie flapped around inside.

“Come on, girl,” I said in what I hoped was a soothing voice. “Come on now.”

“Saying your last goodbyes?” said dad. “So sad.”

He couldn’t say any more as he went into one of his coughing fits. He bent over and hacked and hawed as he tried to clear his chest.

I got the flap open and Elsie let her wings spill outside and into the cold air. She stretched them above her head at awkward angles.

“Come on, girl,” I whispered. I put my hands down the insides of the box and slid my fingers under her tiny body. She pecked at my fingers in a rapid motion. I was used to her doing it. When she first did it I pulled my fingers away.

“It’s okay,” I said. “I’ll help you.”

Elsie calmed down a little, and I got my fingers underneath her body. She appeared so strong with all her feathers now, but I could feel how skinny she was. She ate her own weight in food every day but still like a little bag of bones.

I pulled her out of the box and held her close to my chest.

My dad had gone quiet. I didn’t look at him in case it made him start again.

The grass sloped down in front of me and then went at a sharper angle down. I got as far as I could and stopped. She had done it so many times before with me. I had held her, and she flew right to the end of the garage. One time she flew into the door. She was strong, I could feel it.

I held my hands up higher to give her a full view of what was in front of us.

“Come on, girl,” I said. “You got this.”

I closed my eyes and lifted my hands higher. She let out a cry, it sounded like she said Far. Faaaar!

Then I felt her wings pound the air. I could feel her body lifting.

And she was gone.



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Reading Comprehension Questions


Who are the two main characters of the story?

What does the boy want to do?

What does his father think of this?

Where are they going?

Describe the weather.

What kind of bird is it?

What name did the boy give the bird? Why did he call it this?

Who did they pass along the way?

Why didn’t the boy’s mother want the bird in the house?

Who did the boy ask for advice? What did this person say?

Where did he do some research on birds?

How long has the boy looked after the bird?

Describe the boy’s feeling when he takes the bird out of the box.

Why does his father stop talking?

Does the bird take flight?



Discussion Questions


In your own words, tell the story.

How do you think the boy feels about the bird? Why does he care so much about it do you think?

Describe the boy’s father. What kind of person is he?

How does the boy think of his father?

Do you think it’s possible for a young man to nurse a very young bird to health and teach it to fly?

What would you do if you found a bird like this?

Would your family allow you to keep it?

Why do some people want to care for animals in this way?

Do you think the boy has many friends at school? why/why not?

If the bird flies away at the end, how do you think the boy would feel?

What would the conversation be between the boy and his father as they walk home?

What if the bird could not fly? What would happen after?

The story is called ‘Flight’. Is it about the bird taking flight? Or the boy? Explain your thoughts in class.




I hope this story was of use to you in your English class. Or for your English study.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


Join my mailing list and I will send you this complete lesson plan and others for free – ManWrites Mailing List

Or if you prefer, you can buy it here – Flight/gumroad

9 thoughts on “Flight – a short story for English reading comprehension”

  1. I loved this story. It really showed the rift between jaded adult thinking and the fresh hope and faith of a child. I would have been very disappointed if the bird had not flown. The reader does not want to see faith and hope destroyed. The bird flying renews the reader’s own faith.

  2. The time could be long or short. What’s important is the boy’s faith. In these hard times we are going through now we need faith, trust, unity, empathy strength and ethics to keep believing in life.

  3. In a subtle way, the author has highlighted the chauvinistic way a man thinks and acts, and the submissiveness of a wife, to maintain peace and harmony at home. However, things have changed today and women are empowered- i would like more stories that highlight women’s independence and empowerment.

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