Paul Tough

Writer & Speaker

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

This American Life

The half-hour-long report that I did on This American Life about Baby College and the Harlem Children’s Zone is airing again this weekend.

The report was recently named a runner-up for the 2009 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism in the radio category. According to the citation,

Entrenched poverty is a complicated, nuanced issue, and some reporting on it tends to be one-dimensional. Not this story. This is an excellent report of one man’s impact on the children involved with the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York. The reporter expertly mixes science and storytelling without avoiding thorny issues. It’s no wonder that many who heard or learned of the report wanted to know how they might replicate the program.

3 comments on “This American Life

  1. Jason Halbert says:


    I heard your This American Life piece this past weekend. I’m the Chair of the local Housing Authority in a southern city with a 25% poverty rate. I had heard of the Harlem Children’s Zone, but never investigated. Thank you for such a great show; it was well written and full of facts. I bought your book and look forward to reading it. More importantly I look forward to replicating the model here.

  2. Paul Tough says:

    Thanks, Jason. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece, and I’m glad to hear you’re thinking about creating something like the Harlem Children’s Zone in your city. I hope you find the book useful.

  3. Molly Kinder says:


    A friend of mine posted the link to your “This American Life” segment on Facebook about two weeks ago. I started to listen to it as I ate breakfast before heading in to work. I quickly became so engrossed and transfixed that I ended up sitting in my kitchen for ages (and arriving very late for work!). I was so moved by your story that I just sat with my coffee, reflecting on the issues you raised: urban poverty in America, the provocative research on early childhood interventions, and Canada’s inspiring work in Harlem. I have been thinking about them ever since.

    I immediately ordered your book, and finished reading it a minute ago. It was outstanding, one of the very best nonfiction books I have ever read. The combination of your exhaustive research, the personal stories of the teachers and parents alike, the in-depth profile of Canada himself, and the account of HCZ’s evolution added up to an absolutely brilliant, informative, inspiring and powerful work. And, I can only imagine, a very useful road map for the next Geoffrey Canadas across the country.

    Over the past ten years, my studies and work have focused almost exclusively on addressing poverty in the least developed countries, in places like Liberia and rural India. An avowed Obama nut, I enlisted as a volunteer foot soldier during his campaign and sought out places like inner city Toledo to knock on doors and speak with voters. Ever since, I have become more and more drawn to focusing on some of these same problems we face right here at home: the challenges you highlight in your book. I am so very grateful to have stumbled upon your work, and to have been introduced to the cutting edge research the innovative models that have already begun to make a difference.

    Having been blessed with a sister who is a (very talented!) writer, I am aware of the hard work, inordinate amount of time, and the huge leap of faith that goes into a project as enormous as this book must have been. Which is why I wanted to take the time to simply share how immensely I appreciated the end product and to thank you for everything you put into it.

    Warm wishes,

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