'Scout' visits Gwinnett to speak on 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

LAWRENCEVILLE - Sitting onstage before a sold-out audience, Academy Award nominee Mary Badham, who played Scout in the movie "To Kill a Mockingbird," talked about her life, the book and the importance of reading.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning book "To Kill a Mockingbird" was selected for Gwinnett Reads, a community reading initiative sponsored by the Gwinnett County Public Library system. During the past month, the library system has involved the whole county in activities centered around the book and film.

"We've had an art show, a mock trial of the courtroom from the movie at Phoenix High School with Superior Court Judge Pam South, book chats at Barnes and Noble and in two weeks we'll have a children's museum," said Jo Ann Pinder, executive director of the Gwinnett County Public Library system.

Saturday evening was the pinnacle to the "Mockingbird" event series, and people enjoyed refreshments before listening to Badham.

Ascending the stairs to the podium to speak, Badham, 54, was greeted by applause from an audience excited to see her.

"This is my favorite book and favorite movie," Loganville resident Karen Eggers said. "I relate to Scout because I was a tomboy."

Although many recognized her only as the mischevious, spunky child from the film, Badham showed a more contemplative side by discussing what author Harper Lee's storyline meant to her personally.

"I like the lessons in parenting (the story presents)," she said. "It's about real love, social issues and racial issues."

The movie scene she connected with most was when Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck, read a nighttime story with her.

"I guess I wanted to do that with my own dad," she said.

Reading needs to start at a young age, Badham said.

As a traveling speaker, Badham has seen a variety of libraries in a variety of different cities, yet she said the Gwinnett library system was one of the strongest she has seen.

"Every section is used. I see parents with children," she said. "The other day I saw a dad doing work at the library, and he had his baby in a bassinet next to him. That's how it should get started."