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Elected leaders revisit literary classic

Library presents copies of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ to promote reading, tolerance.

With the help of the Kitsap Regional Library, modern local small towns will gain insight into the subtleties of a similar life 70 years ago.

As part of its first Month of the Book, KRL is giving people a chance to read — or read again — Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” 

The novel, which became an “instant classic after its 1960 publication,” tells a tale of race relations in the small-town south in 1936.

“It’s a small-town-coming-of age-story,” said Port Orchard Librarian Kathleen Wilson. “And the dynamics of a small town are the same every where you go.”

The book is set in Maycomb, Ala., which is a stand-in for Lee’s home town of Monroeville.

At present, Monroeville is only slightly smaller than Port Orchard.

Earlier this month, Wilson presented copies of “To Kill a Mockingbird” to Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola and each member of the city council. This came from a grant secured by the Friends of the Library, which presents the book to every local elected official.

Additionally, the grant has paid for more than 700 copies of the book in several formats — standard print, large type, audio and motion picture.

KRL spokesperson Susan Rosapepe said that a free copy to a community leader, like a city council member or county commissioner, goes a long way to promote reading.

“If a leader does something like read a specific book, people will follow,” she said.

The “One Book, One Community” initiative in Kitsap County is supported by a grant from the Washington State Library, with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and by the Kitsap Regional Library Foundation.

Book group kits and school packets wwill also be developed. Other related activities will include play readings at library branches, showings and discussion of the film, and many other activities.

In addition, the library is sponsoring an essay contest throughout the five county school districts asking students to write about a book that changed their life.

“This book has universal appeal,” said KRL head of collections Martha Bailey. “It was an instant classic when it was released in 1960. It still resonates with the readers.”

In the book, which won a Pulitzer Prize, Lee uses characters to explore Civil Rights and racism in the segregated southern United States of the 1930s. Told through the eyes of Scout Finch, it is the story of her father, Atticus Finch, an attorney who strives to prove the innocence of a black man unjustly accused of rape, and about Boo Radley, a mysterious neighbor who saves Scout and her brother Jem from being killed.

The movie, which will be shown as part of the program, features Gregory Peck as Finch and the then-unknown Robert Duvall as Radley.

Once the book is circulated the extra copies will be donated to local schools. KRL hopes to make this an annual event, selecting a different book for the community to read en masse each October.

For a complete list of related events, including discussion questions, a blog, essay contest entry forms and related reading and viewing materials, visit the Kitsap Regional Library website, www.krl.org. For more information call Rosapepe (360) 405-9133.

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