Harry Potter, Crossing Racial Lines

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth book in the best-selling series is already on its second print run since its release last week. Readers of all races say they can relate to the young wizard's latest adventures.

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ED GORDON, host:

Unless you've lived under a rock for the last week or so, you know that "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is the hottest thing going this summer. The sixth book in the best-selling series is already on its second print run. Adults are reading it almost as much as children, and NPR's Allison Keyes reports that readers of all race relate to the young wizard's latest adventure.

ALLISON KEYES reporting:

In the first 24 hours of its release, the newest Harry Potter novel sold 6.9 million copies in the United States. By a second day, it had raked in $100 million. That's more than the combined weekend box office for the movies "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and the "Wedding Crashers." The US publisher Scholastic calls it a cause for celebration for book lovers everywhere.

(Soundbite of conversation, laughter)

KEYES: That includes readers of color. Harlem's black-owned Hue-Man Bookstore hosted one of 5,000 midnight book-release parties held across the nation. Marva Allen is one of the three owners. She says Hue-Man usually sells around six copies when a new kids' book comes out. With the latest Potter, the store had sold more than 200 copies in the first four days of sales.

Ms. MARVA ALLEN (Co-Owner, Hue-Man Bookstore): Why shouldn't they read this book, you know? It's kind of a fantasy and, you know, encourage imagination whichever way, you know? And it's a good story.

KEYES: Allen says that means African-American and Latino kids are definitely reading this book, even though there aren't that many black characters.

Ms. ALLEN: Kids just like the fantasy. Kids, you know, maybe at that age right now are not so totally aware of the color divide, and are just into good stories.

KEYES: Ten-year-old Samantha Green(ph), an African-American soon to be a sixth-grader, says she agrees.

SAMANTHA GREEN (Reader): I don't really, like, pay attention to that. I don't really, like, care at all.

KEYES: Green, of Fairfield, Connecticut, says when she saw on the news that everybody was reading the book, she wanted to read it, too. So far, Samantha says, she really likes it.

GREEN: I sometimes read that in the dark, and my mom, she catches me sometimes. I get to--and I try to get as closest to my night light as possible, 'cause the font's pretty small. So yeah, I read that under the bed, too.

KEYES: Twelve-year-old Austin Gibbs(ph) in Fayetteville, North Carolina, says he's been into books for a long time.

AUSTIN GIBBS (Reader): I've been a pretty strong reader before I got into Harry Potter. I like to read mystery. I like "Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events," and I like to read fantasy, like the "Star Wars" and stuff, and I like to read adventure titles.

KEYES: He says some of his classmates are bookworms, too.

GIBBS: I have several friends who like to read. It might not be books, but they like to read, like, comics and Japanese title books and stuff.

KEYES: Angela Dodson, executive editor of Black Issues Book Review, says the success of the Potter series, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the movies of both are luring kids back into literacy.

Ms. ANGELA DODSON (Executive Editor, Black Issues Book Review): I think reading is cool again, and it could be attributed to Harry Potter, but it's cool because there are more books to be offered that show children of color, that have children of color.

KEYES: Dodson's publication is recommending several, including Marilyn Nelson's "A Wreath for Emmett Till," Brenda Woods' "Emako Blue" and Walter Mosley's "47." She says there are several ways parents could help get their children more involved in reading, including helping them to create reading clubs or taking them to book-related events at stores. The best way, Dodson says, is to show your children that you value books by letting them see you read.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, New York.

GORDON: To see more of the Black Issues Book Review recommendations, visit our Web site at npr.org.

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