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To Kill a Mockingbird: A Mysterious Flurry of Interest

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To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t a mystery novel, but this month it’s been puzzling a few Library of Congress staff members.

Harper Lee’s tale of conflict in a small Alabama town is a perennial favorite with teachers. The Library’s lesson plan To Kill a Mockingbird: A Historical Perspective”, which uses photos and oral histories from the Library’s collections, has always been fairly popular.

This lesson plan has always been fairly popular. But in the past month, something unusual has happened.

Between October 4 and 8, and again between October 13 and 18, we saw a tremendous increase in visits to this lesson plan–more than 100 times what we usually see. Since then, things have gone back to normal, but it’s left us wondering: What’s led to this sudden increase in interest? And how can we better help teachers work with this novel and the Library’s collections.

If you’re one of the teachers responsible for this spike in use of the lesson plan, please speak up! Let us know in the comments what you’ve been doing with the lesson, and if there’s anything we could do differently. If you’re another teacher who’s taught To Kill a Mockingbird using primary sources from the Library, please let us know what you discovered with your students.

We’ll be grateful for any help in scouting out the solution to this literary mystery.

Comments (15)

  1. I am a pre-service teacher and wanted to see what great primary source material I could use for a TKAMB unit that I’m planning. I visited to see what I could incorporate into a Grade 10 English class. I think the photos of Mobile are fantastic and look forward to using them in the classroom come January.

  2. The flurry of interest may have been teachers working out the timing of the novel to coincide with Halloween. Finishing near Halloween helps to establish the mood for the night of Bob Ewell’s attack of Jem and Scout in chapter 28.

  3. Dear Friends
    I am a teacher from Mexico,
    and about your question all that I can say is that To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel about love and passion for human rights and also it is a novel about
    Love for a father that works hard for their family
    Love for justice to all kind of people

  4. “scouting” out the solution, eh?

    This raises another question – do you monitor all the teacher resources and how often they are accessed? – it would be interesting to get a report on other “most used” resources.

    It will be interesting to see if this mystery is solved.


  5. To Kill a Mockingbird is mentioned in the blurb on the paperback version of The Help. I bought a copy of Mockingbird to send to a friend in Japan along with a copy of The Help. Maybe teachers are looking for something their students can relate to.
    I like mysteries, and I like librarians who wonder!

  6. To Kill a Mockingbird is a “Big Read” book which is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. It is also the Vermont Reads book 2011. This might be the reason for the increase in visits.

  7. I was telling a colleague about this mystery and reminded that To Kill a Mockingbird jsut celebrated its 50th anniversary.

  8. I believe it is due to the fact that Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is using this literature source as an example when making presentations to teachers about the upcoming changes. I know we are in Missouri.

  9. Hi
    I am an Indian blogger, living near Delhi and have written about “To Kill….” in one of my earlier posts (
    I share your intrigue because I have also observed an increased activity on this particular post in the given period.
    Probably, as Kathy says, it is because the book celebrated its 50th anniversary.
    Whatever the reason, it is good to see that even in these cynical times, people are still moved by simple stories of goodness and courage and standing up for justice.
    Rahul Gaur

  10. I’m interested in how the CCSS has been
    incorporarted in the unit

  11. Perhaps some of the interest is coming from Milwaukee. A citywide reading program is featuring “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Many schools may be involved in that effort. Also, the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre is putting on the play this season.

  12. yes yes verry what doe boo’s house look like in real life

  13. Not only is TKAM mentioned in the Common Core, but so are using primary texts and founding documents. Just as I am now, last school year I was looking for ways to incorporate more of these texts and documents, and my search repeatedly led me to the Library of Congress website.

  14. I spent a great deal of time planning a new TKAM unit and was very excited to incorporate primary source material through Library of Congress. Unfortunately, I am incredibly disappointed and frustrated with how things played out this morning. Many students were unable to view photographs – which was fine, we were flexible and paired up. However, within an hour, we couldn’t even get to the website. I understand that technology comes with certain disadvantages, but I didn’t think that we would have such issues with the LoC website. Awesome materials and ideas become useless if they can’t be implemented.

    • Morgan, I’m sorry to hear that the Web site frustrated you, and I’ll alert our IT folks. We’re not immune to the same issues that all technology faces, but we work hard to keep things running smoothly. Please don’t give up on us!

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