“The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think.”
When I was young, I used to read aloud with my dad on a regular basis. This didn’t only happen before bed, but it would happen during summer break and on weekends. Reading out loud was something he and I would do when he needed to work around the house, but I wanted to spend time with him. I would follow him from room to room reading as best I could. When he handed me To Kill a Mockingbird, I knew this book was special. He told me that it was his favorite book, and he hoped I would like it, too. As I look back on my first reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, I am flooded with the memories of my childhood and my father who shared his love for reading, just as Scout remembers reading with Atticus.
When I found out about Harper Lee’s death, I went back to my trusty, worn novel. I held it in my hands and thanked the woman who wrote a piece of literature that has affected me in so many ways. I have reread To Kill a Mockingbird so many times over the years that I had to buy a new hardcover book just so that I could keep my first copy in one piece. I couldn’t let go of the memories. I didn’t want to let go of the world that was set up for me by Lee. I have always loved, and will continue to love, being able to escape to the world of Maycomb. This is a world, that as a teacher, I am able to share with my students. My students know that To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite novel, and they know how much it has influenced my life.
I owe so much to Harper Lee. Without her words, I would not be the person that I am today. To Kill a Mockingbird has influenced my life from the first time I read it to this day. Every time I say, “Hey” to my dad, he will respond with, “Don’t hey me you ugly girl!” a la Mrs. Dubose. I have a wonderful cat named Boo Radley after one of my favorite characters in literature. She is her own version of a recluse, but she does show love to the ones she cares about. I am reminded of Atticus’s words regularly when I am faced with situations that I don’t always understand.
Thank you, Harper Lee. Your words have meant so much to me, and I swear to continue to pass them on to future generations.
About Jennifer Perrin
A South Vermillion and Indiana State University graduate, Jennifer Perrin currently teaches English at South Putnam Jr/Sr High School.