The Big Read Celebrates Classic Book


By Tom McLaughlin

This fall, the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts will participate in The Big Read for the sixth time, celebrating To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The Rutgers center aims to connect approximately 2,000 New Jerseyans to the book and to each other through a two-month celebration, featuring a lecture series, performances, art-installation sites, storytelling workshops, and more.

cover_tokillFor more information on The Big Read or to have your own To Kill A Mockingbird book group, call Noreen Scott Garrity at (856) 225-6306.

The calendar of events at Rutgers University–Camden is as follows:

Family-Friendly Kick-Off Celebration 

Tuesday, Sept. 29, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Black Box Theater, located in the Fine Arts Complex. The kick-off event will celebrate the impact of To Kill A Mockingbird on American culture, as well as its ever-relevant message, with a screening of the 1962 film of the same name, book-discussion group signups, giveaways, and art activities.

Storytelling Session

Saturday, Oct. 24, at 2 p.m. “Respect, Courage, and Understanding.” Camden County Library’s Nilsa I. Cruz-Perez Downtown Branch on the Rutgers–Camden campus. Children will delight as Kyle Jakubowski, an Audubon resident and 2005 graduate of Rutgers–Camden, tells stories of adventure and leads them in a follow-up art activity.

Lecture Series

Wednesday, Oct. 7, from 4 to 5:15 p.m. “Bias, Skill, and Heroes: Legal Perspectives on To Kill a Mockingbird.” Room 112 of the Law School East Building. Associate Professor Stacy Hawkins, Clinical Professor Ruth Anne Robbins, and Clinical Associate Professor Meredith Schalick of Rutgers Law School will discuss the representations of the legal system and lawyers in To Kill a Mockingbird. Using both the book and film versions, this panel of legal experts will highlight connections to racial bias in the justice system, the use of heroes in persuasive legal narratives, and trial-advocacy skills.

001-Harper-LeeThursday, Nov. 5, at 5:30 p.m. Keynote Lecture. Black Box Theater, located in the Fine Arts Complex. Holly Blackford, a professor of English at Rutgers–Camden, will discuss her extensive research on the novel, which she has published in numerous articles and in a 2011 manuscript titled “Mockingbird Passing: Closeted Traditions and Sexual Curiosities in Harper Lee’s Novel.” Blackford is the 2004 winner of the International Reading Association’s Elva P. Knight Research Award. A reception with light refreshments will follow.

Thursday, Nov. 19 at 12:15 p.m. “Reading, Writing, and Race: Exploring Racial Understanding Through Picture Books.” Digital Studies Center’s ModLab, Room 215 of the Fine Arts Building. Nyeema Watson, assistant chancellor for civic engagement at Rutgers–Camden, will discuss her research showing how children in Camden understand race as it is portrayed in picture books, such as The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson. Watson will explore how the picture books, which are the companion books for The Big Read’s younger readers, provide an entry point to discuss with children how they live and understand race in their daily lives.

Sunday, Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. “Connections Between To Kill a Mockingbird and ‘The Member of the Wedding.’” Walter K. Gordon Theater, Fine Arts Complex. Blackford will examine the connection between the two works before a 2 p.m. matinee of the play, “The Member of the Wedding.” Following the play, Blackford will conduct a question-and-answer session.

The Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts was once again named a grantee of The Big Read thanks to a $15,500 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant. The center is one of only two organizations from New Jersey to be selected for the current year, and one of only 75 organizations to earn the nod nationwide. For more information about The Big Read, please visit

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