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  • Writer's pictureKim Catron

To Kill a mockingbird by harper lee

If you somehow managed to make it through high school without ever reading To Kill a Mockingbird, then I would have to say as a reader, writer, and educator: your school deprived you of a stellar piece of literature. I can’t imagine what my mind would be if Scout, Jem, Dill, Maycomb County and Atticus Finch didn’t have squatter’s rights in some part of it.

I know I am biased when it comes to this novel. That’s part of being a teacher. You can work within the Canon and teach pieces that you love- works that have found their way into your heart, mind, and soul- works that you feel have the power to change the reader. And you get to teach them- forever, really, if you stay in the profession long enough!

I taught To Kill a Mockingbird for over 20 years of my career. That means I talked it about it, sometimes five times a day, every year. That means I reread it EVERY YEAR in order to plan and to see which angle of the novel would best suit the group of students I had staring back at me from the desks.

This novel is as important now as when Harper Lee wrote it back in 1960. I could argue even more so. With racial tension and division still rampant in this country, with opposite factions of “that was then this is now” against “but we must claim responsibility for the past and fix the present”- Harper Lee informs the reader of the realities of racism in a way that leaves no room for misunderstanding. She makes the issues (metaphorically and literally) black and white. There are no shades of gray. You can not walk away from this novel saying, "Well, maybe...". There are no maybes.

The novel’s two plots (a recluse and an African-American man on trial )run on parallel tracks and then meet up at the end. It really is fantastic plotting. If you haven’t read it because you think you know it- trust me, until your eyes devour the words and you allow yourself to spend time with the three kids in the summers of Maycomb County, you don’t.

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