Boo Radley will once again be the talk of the town. But this time the town will be Columbia.
The Daniel Boone Regional Library unveiled Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” as this year’s selection for the One Read reading program Tuesday. This is the second year for One Read, a program that encourages community members to read and discuss one book together. Last year, more than 900 people signed up to read Kent Haruf’s “Plainsong” as a part of the program sponsored by the library and a group of businesses, local media and community organizations.
“We’re just hoping that everybody will read the book or reread the book and enjoy discussing it with someone at home, with someone at work or come to the library for some of the discussions,” said Sally Abromovich, a librarian at the Columbia Public Library.
Organizers expect this year’s program to draw more participants because of the popularity of Lee’s 1960 novel and greater community recognition of the program. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Lee’s only published novel, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.
The first 1,000 participants to sign up for the One Read program will receive a red tote with the program’s logo on the side in white. All participants will be entered in a drawing for copies of the book and free passes to screenings of its 1962 film adaptation.
Running through September, there will be a series of community discussions and events centered on the book. Organizers expect the highlight to be “Understanding and Remembering ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’” a program at 7 p.m. on Oct. 2 at Neff Auditorium in Gannett Hall on the MU campus. Claudia Durst-Johnson, an author and expert on the book, will join actress Mary Badham, who played Scout in the movie, for a presentation.
Emily Steffans, a fifth-grade teacher at Russell Boulevard Elementary School, has already asked to take part of the day off as a personal day.
“That’s how important the book is. I think my students will understand,” Steffans said.
Steffans is rereading the book with the Russell Bluestockings, a reading group made up of about 15 teachers, retirees and staff at Russell. Tuesday morning, Mary Lamberson, the school’s secretary, checked out 10 copies of the book and a discussion guide for the reading group.
“Some of us did the One Read program last year and just had so much fun,” Lamberson said. The group will discuss the book at their August meeting during the first week of school.
Although Lamberson has never read the book or seen the movie, she said Steffans’ enthusiasm for the book is contagious.
“I saw the movie when I was in fifth grade and spent the next two years insisting to be called Scout — my all-time favorite character,” Steffans said. “I wore overalls for quite a while because she wore overalls.”
Steffans first read the book in Iowa during middle school.
“I remember reading on the bus, just eating it up,” she said.