Changing Lives Through Literature Project: Literature Transforms You

Press Release—Dartmouth, MA

Watch this dramatic rendering of one scene from Edgar Allan Poe’s A Tell-Tale Heart.

Exposing the public to classic literature

The Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL) program has launched a literature project called Literature Transforms You. The project highlights notable works of literature by creating videos marketed on YouTube. The objective is to expose the public to classic pieces of literature and to renew the public’s interest in reading.

“There are so many great works of Literature that people have not been exposed to. Creating a video dramatizes the experience of reading a novel. CLTL is much more than an alternative sentencing program that helps rehabilitate criminal offenders,” explains the project’s Director of Communication, JoAnne Breault. “It inspires people to read and learn—ultimately promoting literacy.”

Using social media to promote literature

Ms. Breault further states that utilizing YouTube is part of a campaign to harness social media for this literature project.

First Poe, then Shakespeare

The first video features David Mello, Supervisor of Children’s Services at the Fall River (MA) Public Library. Mr. Mello dramatically acts out a scene from Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story, A Tell-Tale Heart.

Ms. Breault’s next mission is to highlight a work of William Shakespeare. “The first time you are assigned to read Shakespeare, there is a sense of apprehension. Once you start reading his words, they are so fluid and melodious; you forget that you are reading old English,” says Ms. Breault.

Children’s books to rival television and video games

Another video will feature a children’s story. “Children are bombarded with violent video games and senseless television. Reading books engages a child’s mind and inspires imagination,” says Ms. Breault.

Seeking volunteer readers and actors

Ms. Breault is seeking volunteers to read captions from their favorite novels and seeking potential actors and actresses to dramatize the scenes. She will perform all of the videography and editing to get the project posted on YouTube.

For more information, e-mail JoAnne Breault at

Editor’s Update

David Mello, the spell-binding Tell-Tale Heart narrator in the first Literature Transforms You video, is featured in a Fall River Herald News article by Marc Munroe Dion. The article discusses Mello’s gallery-displayed mask collection which includes a haunting mask of author Edgar Allan Poe. Read the full article.


34 thoughts on “Changing Lives Through Literature Project: Literature Transforms You

  1. I taped my second video this week. J.C. Wallace portrayed Hamlet. I can’t wait to see the finished project!

  2. Mr. Mello does a very good rendition of Poe’s short story The Tell-Tale Heart. He not only reads the story as a simple narrative, but captures the different emotions experienced by the narrator from beginning to end.
    -Connor Cowley

  3. This was a commendable rendition by Mr. David Mello. He has taken the story and transformed it into a dramatic reading, vibrantly colored with his use of feeling and passion. There is also an evident “decent into madness” that takes place, as Mr. Mello begins calmly, but soon speaks with force and uneasiness about his murderous attempts. Very well done; I look forward to possibly seeing your rendition of the second half of “Tell-Tale Heart.”

  4. Mr. Mello, I enjoyed your rendition of Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart!” I can see how with this example, literature can affect the mind-set of a reader! I especially liked the black and white rendition in the video and the graphics which followed. The Changing Lives Through Literacy program has a fine example with this performance. I feel that (in regards to the later part of the video) it is indeed important to reach out to children, as the earlier you can save a child through literature, the more of an impact you will have on them. This in turn, will bring a huge change to society.

  5. This was such a wonderful rendition of Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart”; you really captured the emotional turbulence in the speaker as he explains why he is not mad, when really he is.

    What really resonated with me is your commitment to developing children as readers, especially by setting an example for them. My daughter is only 20 months old but before bed she yells “books” and goes to her bookcase to pick out the books of the night. As easy as it would be to skip the 20 minutes of reading every night, it is so important to cultivate that love before they get too big and start to see reading as a chore.

    You are doing amazing work. Please never stop.

  6. Very fascinating piece Mr. Mello, a terrific job of incorporating life into the words of a classic story. He does a great job of keeping the reader entertained and really drawing you into the deeper elements of the story.
    Steven Albert

  7. Mr. Mello does a great job of bringing a classic story to life. His careful use of emotion and body language shows his conviction in portraying the character in Poe’s story. He is not simply reading the story, rather he makes it come alive.

    -Erica Souza, ENL 251

  8. David Mello did a great job brining “Tell Tale Heart” to life. When he was speaking the story, I was quickly drawn in by the dramatic black and white lens, and the background music, as well as the dramatic face close-ups-Mello’s body language and tone of voice certainly places a large emphasis on the importance of Poes’ overall message.
    *Rachael Corbitt English 251 with Waxler*

  9. Mr Mello, You are a wonderful storyteller. I have never read Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart”, but I intend to now! You have to be a good actor to put the feeling into the story as you did! I truly enjoyed it. I also agree with your interpretive view after the story. I think books and reading to children are two of the most important things you can do for them. If a child learns to love reading, I believe it helps him/her to become a better student because so much of education is reading and writing. If a child is comfortable with those skills it helps them tremendously by making writing easier and when one reads a lot, they gain knowledge. Thank you for all your work with the local library system.

  10. Mr. Mello’s reading of Tell-Tale Heart blew me away. It most definitely demonstrated how literature does indeed transform both the reader (David) and his audience (myself.) I read this Edgar Allen Poe story a long time ago, but not with such infliction and feeling. As I listened to the reading, I felt as if I was listening to a testimony from the real narrator himself. I felt as if I was transported into the story with him, just as all good literature should make you feel. It’s a very interesting idea to encourage criminals offenders to read… Reading really is a powerful and thrilling experience which can change the reader and make them see from a new point of view.

  11. Mr. Mello did an excellent job keeping the audiences attention. His tone and body language made you feel as if you were closer to the story. The background music helped to keep the suspense and set the mood of the story. Overall I enjoyed watching this video.

    Alisha C. Souza

  12. I have read “A Tell-Tale Heart” many times throughout high school, but never understood the true passion in it. Mr. Mello’s enthusiasm really made this short story come to life; it gives readers a more visual understanding in my opinion. This has been very helpful to watch and has made me interpret Poe’s story in a clearer light. Thank you.

    Brittney Gillis- ENL 251

  13. I have read ‘A Tell Tale Heart” many times in the last few years and thought that I had understood everything in it. Listening to Mr. Mello’s rendition I was wrong because after listening to him I picked up on a few things in the short story that I did not notice before. Listening to another person read aloud while you are reading along makes the story much easier to understand and that is what happened here.
    Andrew Saad ENL-251

  14. Mr. Mello did a fantastic job acting and keeping me interested in the scene. He was very intriguing and allowed me to understand the story better. I cannot wait to discuss this in class to learn about the story even more.

    Ryan Hennessey ENL 251

  15. I grew up on The Tell-Tale Heart though I have only ever read it. Seeing a professional, visual rendition of the first part of the story gave me a new perspective of the narrator which isn’t so easily gained through reading. Text does not as easily portray the apprehension, hints of madness, and the subtle regret behind the narrator’s words as does a live re-enactment. Because of this, I perceived the story as more of a testimony after the crime was discovered, instead of a conversation between the narrator and the reader.

    The emotion provided by Mello also gives more clarity and relatability to the narrator’s murder. We all know that the old man’s eye was what caused it; however, Mello’s reenactment accentuates the narrator’s dementia and irrationality that helps explain why the old man’s eye is so significant.

  16. Mr. Mello’s does a great job depicting story. Things that I did not realize while reading, A Tell Tale Heart I picked up on while listening to him tell the story. He also uses a tone and emotion that helps the audience understand exactly what is going on as opposed to reading some difficult situations in the story. Watching this rendition has made me look at this story from a different perspective. Overall I think Mr. Mello has done a create job with the narration of this story and has truly made it come to life.

  17. although i have read “Tell-Tale Heart” numerous times, he his rendition of it made it seem like it was my first time ever hearing it. he really knew how to keep my attention. i really wished he did the ending part, that would’ve been awesome !

  18. Mr. Mello did an amazing job on retelling this story. His uses of his tones and emotions bring this story to life and as I was reading this story on my own, I didn’t get any emotions from the story itself. After watching the video, the story has such a stronger and deeper meaning and emotions to it. He makes the story sound so much better than with myself reading it in my head.

    Wendy Nguyen

  19. This was absolutely a lively rendition to what might otherwise be considered a lackluster story by some people. Hearing the words stated with this degree of enthusiasm greatly enriches the words written by Poe.
    -Ross Pacheco

  20. Mr. Mello does a very good job of bringing life to the words of Edgar Allen Poe. When reading writings from Poe i usually envision the actions he describes, and here Mr. Mello helps give a visual aid. -Zachary Medeiros

  21. Mr. Mello brought enthusiasm and a visual aspect to the words of Edgar Allen Poe. Really enjoyed watching a different perspective of this great poets writings. -Zachary Medeiros

  22. I have read Edgar Allen Poe’s “A Tell-Tale Heart” many times but hearing Mr. Mello’s version made it come to life with emotion that I could not have gotten from just reading the story. He expresses the madness and personality of the narrator in a way that no one could have really completely seen from reading the story itself. By it acting out he makes the story come to life and show what Edgar Allen Poe wanted us to feel when reading his story.

    Samantha Gokey ENL 251

  23. I have never read “A Tell-Tale Heart,” in fact I do not recall reading much of Poe’s work. I was one of those students who, as a result of my education, thought of reading as a chore. It wasn’t until college that I truly began to appreciate literature and reading for pleasure. If I had experiences like this reading in school, I’m sure I would have felt differently. It was quite enjoyable to watch and to listen to Mr.Mello tell this story. Ms. Breault has initiated a wonderful program by utilizing social media to expose the public to classic literature. I look forward to viewing the upcoming pieces. I am a huge fan of Shakespeare’s work. Keep up the amazing work!

  24. I have read many pieces by Edgar Allan Poe throughout my Poetry and Introduction to Short Stories classes (ENL 250, 251) here at UMASS Dartmouth. No one has emphasized a piece of work like Mr Mello has. Mr. Mello’s sense of passion is revealed as he retells “A Tell Tale Heart”. From beginning to end, he narrates emotions at all angles, which allows the audience to grasp a better meaning of the infamous short story. This re-enactment really explores the significances of the story. It was a pleasure watching.

  25. I am a Biology/Biochemistry student at Umass Dartmouth and throughout high school, I never been a fan of the subject of English. I only began to enjoy English when I did many research papers on Edgar Allan Poe. He is a man that always interested me with his word choice and his sense of voice in his writing. I have read his short stories and poems many times but this time hearing and seeing the dramatic rendering has presented me with a greater meaning for the Tall tale heart. I think this would get more students interested in literature if done this way for other stories

    -brian perry

  26. I think this is a great way to incite interest in reading for many people, though I do feel that, as always, there will be some people still resistant. As I was watching this, my boyfriend walked away and said he “can’t watch crap like this.” It just goes to show that there are differences in what people enjoy. I thought it was a great rendition of ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’

  27. Geez, that was creepy! I’ve read that poem before, but not in a very long time. When I’ve read Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” in the past I always took it for granted that the mad man was tell his story to someone. When you place yourself in the story, making yourself the person the mad man is telling his tale to, he doesn’t sound as nuts. He’s still crazy and scary, but seems somewhat rational since he’s able to communicate with you.

    However, Mr. Mello’s rendition, coupled with the video editing and menacing background music, made me feel like I was hearing this mad man’s inner thoughts. I had never considered before that maybe Poe’s character was talking to himself, or thinking to himself, and that maybe the mad man was so crazed that he didn’t realize that he was his only audience. Mr. Mello’s dramatic telling put a whole new spin on this short story for me. I wish Mr. Mello had read the entire story, but he didn’t, so I had to continue it on my own. Rereading this short story with this new perspective (being inside the mad man’s mind) made the story completely fresh to me and also far more creepy. Thanks Mr. Mello for finding a way to improve on an already good thing.

  28. Dr. Waxler,

    First and foremost I want to thank you for your efforts and your committment to literacy and reading. The first time I heard your name was not in the classroom at UMASS Dartmouth, but it was in my home when my mom came home after buying your book “Losing Jonathan.” I lost my brother, and my parents lost their son in 2003. My mom looked for books to help her with her grief, and out of all the books she bought and read, it was yours that grabbed her attention the most.

    My mother found great comfort in your use of language. She found comfort in reading your words and your book helped her to realize what she should have known all along: she was and still is a great parent. She did and she continues to feel that your book helped her to feel confident in that she did all she could as a parent. My mother read your book, she did not watch a video of your life, but she could completely identify with the feelings inside your story. She could visualize your words in the context of her own life, and so your book took on so much more meaning.

    The use of language is extremely powerful, and so is the use of video and art. You wrote that” creating a video dramatizes the experience of reading a novel.” This is indeed true, and for some viewers, the video or reading is one they can relate to or create in their own mind (like your book “Losing Jonathan” was for my mother).

    I think you found a very effective way to encourage and engage readers/viewers with Edgar Allen Poe’s, Tell Tale Heart. This video might entice viewers to explore a reading that they may not have otherwise read. This video helps to make Poe’s Tell Tale Heart more “accessible” to the general public in that it helps viewers understand the reading. This video and others like it help all different types of learners.


  29. Poe is attractive to so many types of people…. Even those who think they don’t like “reading” seem to make a special exception for Poe. A great choice to get people into reading “literature”. Great job on the video.

  30. Brianna – your comment “…thought of reading as a chore.” caught my attention. I think you’ll enjoy next week’s post on this blog (to be published 2/24). Next week’s article talks about situations in which children learn to think of reading as a chore because of how reading and books are presented to them by adults…and then these children grow up to be “reluctant readers.” I’m glad you’ve made the transition from reading as a chore to reading for pleasure! –Nancy, blog editor

  31. Thanks for your comments. As the videographer and director, it had taken me approximately 40 hours to edit this short piece. My goal was to have it look like a mini film. I participated in an historical walking tour in Oak Grove Cemetery with David. He is a very talented man. I thought you would find this article interesting

    Please like our Changing Lives Through Literature Facebook page. We now have Hamlet airing.

  32. A wonderful rendition — spoken from memory. I was immediately drawn in. I look forward to the scene from Hamlet.

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