According to the Staunton News Leader this morning, the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge has announced a “Big Read” in our area for March 2008: Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Although it’s a shame that such lengths are necessary to instill literacy in a community, it’s still great news. I hope the area embraces the idea and promotes it extensively. (I first heard about a couple of weeks ago talking to the owner of The Bookstack, so I knew it was in the works, just didn’t know when it would happen; I know the bookstore is fully behind this.)
It’s been a long time since I’ve read the book, so I plan to re-read it, along with the recent biography of Harper Lee that I haven't yet gotten to.
The question I have about these “big read” efforts is whether they choose the right books. TKAM is wonderful and everyone should read it, but like The Great Gatsby (the recent Big Read in Charlottesville and other Virginia cities), it’s quite familiar to many (I didn't participate in the Charlottesville events because I've read Gatsby several times, most recently a couple of years ago). Even current high school students are supposed to have read Mockingbird for school, so wouldn’t it make sense to pick a book that is less familiar? But that’s nitpicking, and there's more to the event than just reading the book. I’m very glad the CFCBR has launched this effort and I’ll be happy to participate. Stay tuned for more on this subject.