Skip to main content

“’…but remember it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird.’ That was the only time I heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. ‘Your father’s right…Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy…they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird.’”

Atticus Finch and Maudie Atkinson to Scout (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird)

“First of all…if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Atticus Finch to Scout (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird)

Overview of the Big Read Holland Area 2014:

  • 7 main events
  • 20 book discussions (churches, bars, art galleries, schools, organizations, bookstores)
  • Collaborative art project with a local professional artist and five local high school teachers
  • Community art project
  • 3000 participants

Community art project goals for November 2014:

  • involve as many people as possible (young and old participants, formal and informal contexts)
  • have an individual and community aspect to the art piece
  • encourage participants to connect themes from a book to real life
  • encourage participants to create a piece of art that uses visuals to communicate content
  • encourage participants to use their own experiences, interests, literacies to inform their art
  • encourage participants to use their art to speak to our community at large
  • display the art in a public setting

Community art project logistics:

  • worked with a professional artist (Joel Schoon Tanis)
  • established partnerships with six area schools
  • minimal art supplies needed
  • minimal activity instructions
  • public setting/event in which to display the final product

Collaborative art project:

  • discussion about the creative process and steps involved in creating an art panel
  • choose and research a theme from the novel and decide on a scene that embodied that them
  • research historical time period in order to know how best to visualize particular characters, places, emotions, and meanings within their chosen scene
  • build off artist’s initial sketches and paint the canvas
  • public art reception for the community – artist statement; opportunity to introduce the artist to family members, friends; opportunity to talk about the finished product to community members


  • English faculty
  • partnerships with other schools/districts – having similarly themed units at the same time
  • partnership with local public libraries – book talks (at the library or have a librarian visit your school), attending events
  • partnerships with seniors’ groups – intergenerational conversations about literature
  • partnerships with local organizations

Who are our Mockingbirds?

Joel Schoon-Tanis, 2014

In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the mockingbird stands as a symbol.  You could call the mockingbird people who are misunderstood. You could call them innocent people who others hurt.  You could call the mockingbird the oppressed people in society. You could call them those who are knocked down by people with power.  You could even say they are those who we judge wrongly.

As you consider these ideas, identify mockingbirds in our world today.  This could be a specific person (it could even be you) or it could be a people group.  There are many factors that create mockingbirds (race is clearly one of the factors in TKAM, but there are many others), so think broadly about who the mockingbirds may be.

Then, write a paragraph that identifies your mockingbird and explain why you believe that person or group of people are mockingbirds.

Now pare your paragraph down to a phrase or even a series of words.

Are there simple images that might illustrate your words – or your people? Sketch a few (these don’t need to be realistic).

Finally, take those words (and images if you have them) and graphically transfer them to the mockingbird template.  Do all of your work within the body of the bird.  You can do this by using paint, markers, pencil, or by scanning and creating it on the computer.


National Endowment for the Arts. The Big Read

Van Duinen, D. V. & Bolhuis, A. (January 2016). Reading To Kill a Mockingbird in Community: Relationships and Renewal. English Journal.

Van Duinen, D. V. & Schoon-Tanis, K. (2015). “‘Who are Our Mockingbirds?’: Participatory Literacies in a Community-Wide Reading Program”. Journal of Language and Literacy Education v11 n1 p. 127-136. Podcast: from the Field

Leave a Reply