To Kill a Mockingbird: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

If you enjoy reading stories from many years ago where people learn lessons that are important today, you should try reading 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' Read on for a summary of this classic novel from 1960.

A Divided Town

How do you treat people who are different from you? This question lies at the heart of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

The book is narrated by Jean Louise Finch, also known as Scout. Scout is the daughter of the respected lawyer Atticus Finch. She lives with her father and her brother Jem in Maycomb, Alabama. Scout and Jem are white and have been raised by Calpurnia, a black woman, ever since their mother died.

In Maycomb, even though slavery has officially ended, white people still believe that they are superior to black people in every way. This prejudice is so deeply ingrained that most people think it is fact and not opinion. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout begins to learn about the injustice in her town.

Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960.
mockingbird

The Mysterious Neighbor

Scout and Jem are fascinated by their neighbor, Boo Radley, who never leaves his house. Jem likes to invent stories about Boo, and they become obsessed with trying to see Boo Radley.

While the children don't succeed in seeing Boo, there is some evidence that he might be paying attention to them. Jem and Scout find small gifts in a hollow tree on the corner of the Radley's yard and are convinced the gifts are from Boo.

Atticus tells Jem and Scout to leave Boo Radley alone. He tells them to respect Boo's choice to hide. People who are different should be treated with kindness, not teased and mocked.

The Trial

Scout's hardest lesson in the story comes as a result of her father's work. Atticus is assigned to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman. The entire town is outraged by the trial.

Scout gets to hear both sides of the story. Most of the white community in the town is angry that Atticus would defend a black man, who they believe is obviously guilty. Then Scout goes to church with Calpurnia and sees the black community working to help Tom Robinson's family. They believe Tom is innocent.

On the day of the trial, the entire town is in the courthouse. As the testimony is given, it quickly becomes evident that Tom Robinson did nothing wrong. Bob Ewell, the father of victim, has invented the story of the rape and appears both foolish and cruel. Even though he is innocent, at the end of the trial,Tom Robinson is declared guilty.

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