Synopses & Reviews
A page-turning dispatch from inside the most daring and
potentially transformative social experiment of our time
Geoffrey Canada is a driven, brilliant crusader for children whose
bold approach to inner-city poverty has been called by Barack
Obama an all-hands-on-deck anti-poverty effort that is literally saving
a generation of children. Canada's radical new idea: if you really want
to change the lives of poor children, you have to change everything --
their schools, their families, their neighborhoods -- all at once.
Paul Tough gained exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to Geoffrey
Canada as the Harlem Children's Zone grew to become a $58-million-a-
year organization, encompassing 97 city blocks and reaching more
than 7,000 children. In Tough's inspired portrait, sure to be as deeply
influential as Tracy Kidder's of Paul Farmer, Canada shares center stage
with the parents and children of Harlem as they hopefully, anxiously
enter a conveyor belt of integrated programs, from Baby College to
Harlem Gems to Promise Academy.
There's Victor Boria, nineteen, who enters Baby College on the
verge of breaking up with his pregnant teenage girlfriend -- and then,
nine weeks later, proposes to her onstage in front of a jubilant crowd.
And there's Wilma Jure, waiting and praying that her four-year-old
niece, whose mother is homeless, will win a spot in Canada's new
kindergarten class. Finally, Tough vividly describes Canada's passion
for change and how it is playing out in real time -- as educators and
policymakers from across the country keenly watch. Whatever It Takes
is a tour de force of suspenseful and brilliantlyinformed reporting.
"New York Times journalist Tough profiles educational visionary Geoffrey Canada, whose Harlem Children's Zone currently serving more than 7,000 children and encompassing 97 city blocks represents an audacious effort to end poverty within underserved communities. Canada's radical experiment is predicated upon changing everything in these communities creating an interlocking web of services targeted at the poorest and least likely to succeed children: establishing programs to prepare and support parents, a demanding k-8 charter school and a range of after-school programs for high school students. Tough adeptly integrates the intensely personal stories of the staff, students and teachers of the Children's Zone with expert opinions and the broiling debates over poverty, race and education. The author's admiration for Canada and his 'social experiment' is obvious yet tempered by journalistic restraint as he summarizes the current understanding of the causes of poverty and academic underperformance and their remedies. Smoothly narrated, affecting and heartening, this book gives readers a solid look at the problems facing poor communities and their reformers, as well as good cause to be optimistic about the future. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Geoffrey Canada is a driven, brilliant crusader for children who argues that to change the lives of poor children, everything has to change--their schools, their families, their neighborhoods--all at once. Tough offers a behind-the-scenes look at Canada's Harlem Children's Zone organization.
What would it take?
That was the question that Geoffrey Canada found himself asking. What would it take to change the lives of poor childrennot one by one, through heroic interventions and occasional miracles, but in big numbers, and in a way that could be replicated nationwide? The question led him to create the Harlem Childrens Zone, a ninety-seven-block laboratory in central Harlem where he is testing new and sometimes controversial ideas about poverty in America. His conclusion: if you want poor kids to be able to compete with their middle-class peers, you need to change everything in their livestheir schools, their neighborhoods, even the child-rearing practices of their parents.
Whatever It Takes is a tour de force of reporting, an inspired portrait not only of Geoffrey Canada but of the parents and children in Harlem who are struggling to better their lives, often against great odds. Carefully researched and deeply affecting, this is a dispatch from inside the most daring and potentially transformative social experiment of our time.
About the Author
PAUL TOUGH is an editor at the New York Times Magazine and one of Americas foremost writers on poverty, education, and the achievement gap. His reporting on Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Childrens Zone originally appeared as a Times Magazine cover story. He lives with his wife in New York City.