Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Celebrating the Reader on the Wings of Mockingbird
(Besides, I totally missed the party Sunday while taking a lovely day to be outside, read a book, talk to family. And never mind the fact that — with all the months of birthday coverage I'd already seen — quite frankly I'd started tuning out whenever I saw something new.)
Mockingbird is one of those rare books that garners near universal acknowledgment as a masterpiece. For me, just seeing the book cover or hearing the title makes me immediately call up a feeling of reverence for this powerful story featuring timeless themes, a you-are-there setting, and distinctly drawn characters.
I really don't remember when I read it for the first time. Was it on my own, or for school? That I don't recall surprises me, as I do remember exactly "when" for so many of my other all-time favorite books, including those read first in childhood. I do know I was a youngster of the teen-type. I also know I reread it in college, for work in the early 1990s, and then again for fun probably five years ago. Or so. (Naturally, I've also seen its equally brilliant film adaptation numerous times.) I know I loved it from the start, but I don't think I truly sat in awe of it until I was older.
Obviously, Mockingbird deserves this year-long celebration. For giving us all such a lasting gift, Harper Lee — its fascinatingly private author — deserves all the accolades we can throw her way. And I have enjoyed seeing myriad journalists, scholars, celebrity authors, and celebrity-celebrities (oh: Oprah, too) reflect on their experiences with/feelings about/analyses of the book.
But what I want to know is, How do today's young people feel when they read it? (And many do read it.) How does it play with a contemporary audience who didn't read it in the context of "current" life in the 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s? Does the book speak to today's kids? Do they love it too?
I found this amazing book trailer created by a junior high student. Take a peek.
This gave me chills. (Well done, Max Weinstein of Paideia School in Atlanta!) It made me want to dive back into the book, to recapture that wider-eyed, all-senses-firing feeling I get when I'm completely lost in a story.
While replaying the trailer, all I can think about is how happy I am to see a tangible reminder that kids today not only are connecting with this great work, but they are, in fact READING books of all types and LOVING IT. I know, this was a school project, but still. That creative kid was moved and inspired by reading.
Those of us working in publishing and education — and, of course, countless tuned-in parents — know we're growing legions of eager young readers, but news of the world so seldom focuses on them. Much time is spent lamenting the problem of getting children to read at all. Not that it isn't a serious problem we must address; I just think the occasional good news is nice, too. So I decided to take a few minutes to reflect on those who are reading. To celebrate what they're reading and how THEY'RE affected by our beloved To Kill a Mockingbird, other classics, and all the great new literature they get to enjoy.
You know they have opinions (and one could argue those are the most important ones). And you know the books are shaping their lives — from now to when they, too, can play Remember When about their own all-time favorites.
Today, I celebrate . . . THE READER! Join me?