Backed by state grant, Kitsap Regional Libraries organize massive countywide consumption of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
It feels a little bit like ninth grade again.
Once again the proverbial class is being asked to read and discuss one of the top books of all time, Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mocking Bird.”
Only this time your grade doesn’t depend on it. There will be no quiz, no essay questions, no book projects. In fact, just by reading (or re-reading), discussing and/or pondering this Great American Classic, you’ll, in effect, be participating in one of the biggest collaborative book projects this year — “The Month of the Book” at Kitsap Regional Library.
Every so often bookstores or library branches get stoked on a particular book — usually either a classic or contemporary story with a timely, socially pervasive message — and they’ll organize a large local copy distribution matched with a series of local events centered around said book, in hopes of aligning the community through literature.
The idea was founded and organized into an initiative of sorts by the Washington Center for the Book in 1998.
Earlier this year, the Bainbridge Island branch of KRL was one of 127 organizations nationwide that applied for and received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to participate in The Big Read project, which focused on the book “Fahrenheit 451.”
The themes of civic engagement, science fiction, speculative fiction and literacy were carried through a month full of events on the island from author appearances to discussions and public forums, all culminating with a screening of “Fahrenheit 451” the movie and a discussion with the curator from Seattle’s Science Fiction Museum.
On that example, the greater Kitsap Regional Library applied for and was awarded a grant by the Washington State Library to participate alongside other libraries, cities and schools across the nation in a similar project called One Book One Community this month.
Thus the KRL’s “Month of the Book,” was born, featuring Harper Lee’s classic story of American humanity, justice and coming of age. They’re hoping to make it an annual affair with a different book each October.
This year’s grant provided for the purchase of 700 extra copies of “To Kill A Mockingbird” in various formats.
The library has been handing out copies to local civic leaders and taking their portraits with the book for celebrity-”READ”-style posters that will hopefully influence the greater community to pick up the book as well.
In addition, events ranging from play readings to discussion groups, lectures on great works of fiction to appearances by bestselling authors Sherman Alexie and David Guterson are slated throughout the county, in line with “The Month of the Book.”
Online, a One Book One Community blog has been set up at www.krl.org.
In schools, copies of the book and group discussion packets are being distributed while students are also invited to participate for cash prizes in an essay contest on the topic of how a particular book has changed their lives.
Depending on when you were last in ninth grade, or when you were last required to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” in school, a lot of things may have changed since then — both in society and in your own life.
Even the book’s cover may have changed.
The world’s climate has certainly changed even more in the nearly 50 years since Lee’s Pulitzer Prizewinner was published, but the story still remains one of the most influential and important reads in American culture today.
In 2006, a consortium of British librarians voting for the “one book every adult should read before they die” ranked Lee’s masterpiece in first place, topping Orwell’s “1984,” Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the Bible.
For a full list of One Book One Community events go to www.krl.org or call the library at (360) 405-9100.