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Three local organizations provide community the opportunity to explore ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’

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    That was the first word Charlene Stewart used to describe how the Statesboro Regional Library, Friends of the Library and the Averitt Center came together to put on the community learning series: “Mockingbird: the Book, the Movie, the Legend.” The program features community-wide discussions of the classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, offers free screenings of the classic movie and culminates with a presentation by author Harper Lee’s biographer, Charles Shields.
    t all started in the Fayetteville, Ark., Barnes & Noble.
    Stewart, current president of the Bulloch County Friends of the Library, had been carrying around a gift card in her purse for three or fours months — a Christmas gift from last year. Then she came across the Shields biography, “Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee.”
    “Immediately I said, ‘this is what I want to use my card for,’” said Stewart. “I read that book the entire trip home.”
    “It’s just a fantastic biography. [Shields] just does a wonderful job in describing [Harper Lee’s] life and her lifestyle and the way she gathered her information, etc. Her relationship with Truman Capote. It’s just a very good read, entertaining and informative.”
    Stewart said she shared the book with Cora Fay, the assistant library director, who had the same reaction to the book. Together, they decided to contact the author and see if he would participate in the “Meet the Author” series — sponsored by the Friends for years — to which Shields agreed.
    With the author’s participation secured, Fay remembered of a program sponsored by the Library of Congress which has grant money for encouraging community projects.
    “For several years, communities have been doing what they call “One Book, One Community” programs, where the whole community reads the same book,” said Fay. “We decided that we wanted to do that here. We thought, ‘wouldn’t it be fun to read the novel, see the movie, then hear from Mr. Shields.’”
    Stewart said she’s received favorable responses from everyone who’s come across the program. The Averitt Center for the Arts Executive Director Tim Chapman has offered the use of the Emma Kelly Theater for screenings of the movie, Statesboro Kiwanis offered a financial contribution and Statesboro Magazine offered space.
    “The community has responded so positively. We have just been overwhelmed with the eagerness of everyone to help us make this happen,” said Stewart. “It has been one little serendipity event after another that has evolved into what I believe will be one of the best things [the Friends] have been able to do for the community.”
    To kick off the project, the Friends of the Library will have 750 copies of “To Kill a Mockingbird” on sale at the library for $1 a piece. They will be on sale from Dec. 10 - 13, giving readers plenty of time to get through the book before January.
    “We are encouraging the community to read the novel again, even if they’ve read it,” said Fay. “Nobody can say they don’t have access to the book.”
    On Monday, Jan. 14, three Georgia Southern University professors - Peter Christopher, assistant professor of writing and linguistics, David Dudley, professor of African American literature and Rosemarie Stallworth-Clark, associate professor of educational psychology - will be on hand at the Statesboro Regional Library to lead community discussion groups.
    “I hope to let the people who come to hear us to do most of the talking,” said Dudley. “It’s a book that’s so well known, so many people have read it and cherished it for a long time - readers of all ages - I think people have something they want to say about it.”
    “It’s more than a book club in the sense that it’s community wide,” said Christopher. “That’s the thing that’s phenomenal because teachers are involved, parents are involved - it’s much wider. Anything that illicits reading and discussion about reading and writing is great in my book.”
    On Jan. 26 and 27 at 2 p.m., the Averitt Center will offer free screenings of the Oscar award-winning “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The movie, originally released in 1963, received three Oscars - including best actor for Gregory Peck - and was nominated for five others.
    The final event of the series will be a lecture by Charles Shields held Monday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. in the Emma Kelly Theater at the Averitt Center. In addition, on that Monday and Tuesday, Shields will make presentations at most of the local high schools - focusing on classes where students are currently studying the text.
    Ultimately, Stewart and the Friends wanted to make people more aware of the contribution the library makes to the community.
    “I just felt like Bulloch County needed to know,” said Stewart. “Last year as president my goal was to get more people involved as friends of the library - we’re meeting that goal. This year my goal was to tell the library story to Bulloch County. I’ve got a fantastic board who have such good experiences and expertise - we just wanted to get the library up-front and center.”
    All because of a Barnes & Noble in Fayetteville.
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