Feb 16, 2010

To Read or to Love, that is the question

For everyone who's read To Kill a Mockingbird, as opposed to loved To Kill a Mockingbird, here's my take on the question.

We, even those of us who are baby birds in the writing nest, write our stories from the heart ...or they die.
We, even those of us who stumble over and over again, pick up the pen and try another story...or give up.
We, even those of us who may not be Sunday faithful, dream, wish and pray for inspiration...or we feel abandoned......and I am telling you, feeling abandoned is a state of our own creation.

This morning, instead of writing or even dreaming up something worth writing, I searched the ether for an abridged version of TKM for our SPED classes. Why? You might ask. Surely if we 'encourage' kids who can't read above 3rd or 4th grade level to slog through TKM, we have a good reason. Could it be that the story is arresting, full of action, dynamic, thrilling?  To a kid, not so much.

Ah, but I and possibly you, grew up on the film. The FILM first. The action, the drama, the pathos. The FILM first. Then, after a little time and a little emotional scarring, I read the book.

And oh, while I love the story, the writing, the characters, the conflict, and the reveals....to me, To Kill a Mockingbird was meant to be real life, visceral, angry and sweaty, frustrated and frustrating. To be Scout, to be caught up in an adult world that doesn't make any sense at all, to have so many questions about decent behavior and compassionate understanding of other people...and to be unable to make a difference, what more could the main character want in a story? What better way to electrify the heart of a child who believes at that moment, 'I would never shut up and let this happen.'

What better way to empower one of tomorrow's heros?

So, now I ask you: Is it better that a slow reader have read through the full version with adult vocabulary and dictionary by the side, or is it better that these same teens read the story in simplified language and then view the film?

Authors: What's your response? If you were a 9th grade teacher, how would you teach it and why?

I'm listening.

1 comment:

Kris said...

Oh, To Kill a Mockingbird! One of my favorite books ever! It was required summer reading ... I can't remember for which grade. And for several years that followed, I think I read it EVERY summer until it became Gone with the Wind that I had to read annually over summer break.

It's been years since I read TKM, but I never saw a simplified version. The earliest times I read it, I think I was fairly young and some of it was probably above my head. Especially the court scenes. But I still got a lot out of it. I wasn't reading it for insight into the legal system, discrimination, injustice, etc... I was a Southern tomboy who could relate in a lot of ways to Scout, and I was just itching to find out the mysteries behind who Boo Radley was and where the gifts in the tree were coming from. Later, as I became more mature and the reading became easier for me, I began to take away more meaning from the book.

I should probably admit at this point that I was really young when I read Animal Farm too, and it took me a decade to realize the book had political overtones! I would just take what I could from a book, and leave anything that was above my head behind!

Anyway, if the language in the simplified version of TKM is at the appropriate level for your class, I'd say go for it. Who knows - maybe it will inspire them to graduate on to the original version if they ever do a re-read?!?