Carlton County joins 'Big Read' with 'Mockingbird'
It's the kind of sentence that Sixth Judicial District Judge Dale Wolf likes to hand down: Read a good book. And Wolf has one particular book he requires many young criminals who have appeared before him in Carlton County court to read -- "To Kil...
It's the kind of sentence that Sixth Judicial District Judge Dale Wolf likes to hand down: Read a good book.
And Wolf has one particular book he requires many young criminals who have appeared before him in Carlton County court to read -- "To Kill a Mockingbird." So it was fitting, then, that on Monday Wolf presided over Carlton County's first community-wide reading effort, focused on the Harper Lee classic.
The county is one of about 200 communities across the country that received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts for their "Big Read" program, a push by the group to bring reading back to the center of American Society.
During the next month and a half, there will be a dozen different discussion groups held throughout the county, as well as a screening of the classic movie and a keynote address from the president of the American Library Association, a Cloquet native.
And, of course, there should be plenty of page turning.
The Carlton County Historical Society, with help from the Cloquet Public Library and the Cloquet Education Foundation, has brought in about 400 copies of the book to get people reading. Many are to give away.
A pile of paperbacks and discussion guides was laid out for the taking at the Carlton County Courthouse on Monday. Kelly Smith and Karola Dalen, both of Esko, paused to pick up a copy before they entered the courtroom, where a sign announcing the "State of Alabama vs. Tom Robinson" taped to the door.
Inside the courtroom, local theater buff Michael Rosen read a selection of Atticus Finch's speeches from the book. Fellow County Seat Theater players Sean Biskey, as Jem Finch, and Kelsey Anderson as Scout Finch rounded out the reading.
Carlton County Historical Society Director Anne Dugan, who applied for the $5,000 Big Read grant, said they chose the book because it touches on a number of themes that are as relevant in Carlton County today as they were in a small Alabama town in the 1930s -- including racial tensions and the contrasts between rural and city life.
Wolf added another reason, based on the book's outcome: the harsh truth that in reality, justice isn't always blind.
"It's the juxtaposition about the ideal concept of the court system, and how it plays out in the novel," Wolf said. In the book, forces outside the courtroom bring about an injustice inside the courtroom, "and that continues to play out today."
"This book has had such an impact on people's lives," said Cloquet Public Library Director Mary Lukkarila.
And it continues to do so, Dugan said. This summer, after an older Cloquet woman heard about the Big Read event, she decided to get a jump on the community and picked up the book early. When her adult son called one day, wanting to talk about the last "Harry Potter" book, the woman brushed that tome aside in favor of gushing about how "To Kill a Mockingbird" changed her life, Dugan said.
"And he said, 'Mom, that's my favorite book ever!' " Dugan said.