The man behind the Bluford series may be a surprise, but the kids don't care

The New York Times reports on series popular with a group not usually associated with books: urban teens who struggle with reading. The creator and author of many of the books is white - but the kids don't care.

"During the summer of 1997, Mr. Langan was a recent college graduate working at Townsend Press, an educational publishing house founded by his uncle, John Langan, to produce textbooks like “Ten Steps to Improving College Reading Skills.” The younger Mr. Langan coordinated a reading program that summer for Philadelphia teenagers. Noting the teenagers’ resistance to books, he approached his uncle with the initial conceit for Bluford. His uncle had the vision and means to run with it.

"Unifying rules took hold as the series evolved. The books would feature black and Latino characters, and the characters’ conflicts and choices would ultimately model positive decision-making. The books would be written at a level that struggling middle and high schoolers could read (fifth grade), about topics they would want to read about (guns, theft, pregnancy), for a price they would pay ($1)."

Read more here.

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I brought the Bluford series into an urban middle school library, and tons of kids who hadn't been reading/taking out books -- read them, passed them to each other and recommended them and even moved on to other books (Angela Johnson, Walter Dean Myers, etc) -- it was really great!! They really created a book culture, a great value (lots of them never made it back to the library, but as they were being read by kids, I didn't care too much)