What key lessons can a person (parent/child) learn from this text??
Repeatedly, Harper Lee has Atticus discuss with the children the importance of putting themselves in someone else's shoes. He tells it to Scout when she has problems with her teacher; he tells it to Jem and Scout after the confrontation with the group of men at the jailhouse; and he tells both Jem and Scout again with Bob Ewell spits in his face.
Another lesson that students might learn is that Atticus respects the jury system but feels that "people have a way of carrying their resentments into the jury box". He tells Jem, when Jem wants to do away with juries, that the only way to deal with it is to "Change the law. Change it so that only judges have the power of fixing the penalty in capital cases." It might be a good discussion about how students would go about doing that, and if they think it will fix the problem.
There are many lessons to be learned with this book, but I think one of the most important lessons is the one of empathy. I think this is one of the traits that we as humans have most difficulty with, and Atticus teaches it to his children so well. If we all had empathy I really think we would look at a lot of situations differently.
Another way that a parent can use this book to help teach a child is to talk about its controversial topics. Many people do not like this book for some good reason. It uses the "n-word" frequently and has some controversial attitudes toward racism. Instead of disallowing someone to read it because of these things, it's important to let a child read it, and use the text to have important teaching conversations with the child.
I would hope that parents would take a good look at some of the seemingly well-meaning characters (the women of the Missionary Tea and the teachers, particularly) and realize how their words and actions--often based on religious, social and educational beliefs--are not necessarily sound. Children tend to follow the leads set by their parents, and one can only wonder how the kids would have turned out with parents such as Miss Stephanie, Miss Rachel, Mrs. Merriweather, Mrs. Farrow, Miss Caroline and Miss Gates. Luckily, none of these ladies apparently had children.
Parenting by Atticus is certainly unorthodox for the 1930s; however, his strong example in understanding the perspectives of others and in striving for justice are so powerful that Scout and Jem learn from him while they come to certain conclusions on their own because Atticus practices what he believes and does not lecture to his children. In short, Atticus Finch is a model that many a parent would do well to imitate.
The value of empathy is one of the key lessons any person could learn from this text -- the willingness and ability to walk in someone else's shoes and to learn from that experience. Parents might learn, from Atticus, the value of treating children with respect and being condescending to them.
A parent can teach a child about the importance of sticking to their own beliefs. Atticus is the perfect example of a parent who must face a town who is prejudice. Atticus teaches his children that a person cannot judge another person until they walk around in their shoes.
I would hope that young people and parents can discuss how important it is not to judge from appearance. Boo Radley is the example that Scout and Jem realise is not as he is portrayed.