How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Hardcover | September 1, 2012

byPaul Tough

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Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs.But in How Children Succeed , Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control. How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories-and the stories of the children they are trying to help-Tough traces the links between childhood stress and life success. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do-and do not-prepare their children for adulthood. And he provides us with new insights into how to help children growing up in poverty.Early adversity, scientists have come to understand, can not only affect the conditions of children's lives, it can alter the physical development of their brains as well. But now educators and doctors around the country are using that knowledge to develop innovative interventions that allow children to overcome the constraints of poverty. And with the help of these new strategies, as Tough's extraordinary reporting makes clear, children who grow up in the most painful circumstances can go on to achieve amazing things.This provocative and profoundly hopeful book has the potential to change how we raise our children, how we run our schools, and how we construct our social safety net. It will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.

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From the Publisher

Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs.But in How Children Succeed , Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: ski...

PAUL TOUGH's last book was How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character , which spent more than a year on the New York Times hardcover and paperback bestseller lists and was translated into twenty-seven languages. He is also the author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and Ameri...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 9.17 × 6.27 × 1.06 inPublished:September 1, 2012Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0547564651

ISBN - 13:9780547564654

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from An OK Reading but I didn't Get What I Want The book is easy to read, have good storytelling, and have a very interesting topic for parents with young children. The writer shoed many cases of what make children succeed: grit, curiosity, charater, etc. But I found no systematic ways of how to make children with that character. Though there are several good tips, but I still do not find it satisfyng enough. Still, I would reccommend this book to every parents that want to know how their children can succeed.
Date published: 2013-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exactly what I've been searching for! Loving "How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character" by Paul Tough! I recommend this book to everybody - educators and parents, and anybody who's ever struggled through anything. It's about looking beyond IQ tests and report cards. The best news? It's never too late to help a child or yourself improve. It's taking me some time to read because I need to process many of the concepts, as I do with all research-based books. But it is very readable, and non-judgmental of the well-intentioned mistakes we've made (and our teachers/parents) in educating/raising the next generation. It's both cathartic and inspiring - please check it out! I am a Public Secondary School remedial Math and Learning Strategies teacher in Southwestern Ontario.
Date published: 2012-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Brief Summary and Review *A full executive summary of this book will be available at the website newbooksinbrief dot wordpress dot com, on or before Sept. 17. When it comes to a child's future success, the prevailing view recently has been that it depends, first and foremost, on mental skills like verbal ability, mathematical ability, and the ability to detect patterns--all of the skills, in short, that lead to a hefty IQ. However, recent evidence from a host of academic fields--from psychology, to economics, to education, to neuroscience--has revealed that there is in fact another ingredient that contributes to success even more so than a high IQ and impressive cognitive skills. This factor includes the non-cognitive qualities of perseverance, conscientiousness, optimism, curiosity and self-discipline--all of which can be included under the general category of `character'. In his new book `How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character' writer Paul Tough explores the science behind these findings, and also tracks several alternative schools, education programs and outreach projects that have tried to implement the lessons--as well as the successes and challenges that they have experienced. To begin with, Tough establishes how study after study has now shown that while IQ and scores on standardized tests are certainly highly correlated with academic and future success, that non-cognitive characteristics actually predict success better than cognitive excellence. For instance, the psychologist Angela Duckworth has found that students' scores on self-discipline tests predict their GPA better than their IQ score. Likewise, it has been shown that the related characteristic of conscientiousness is even more predictive of a student's eventual success in college, and in their future earnings, than their scores on cognitive tests. Over and above this, it has also been found that both self-discipline and conscientiousness are highly correlated with all manner of positive outcomes, including in areas such as one's likelihood of using drugs and alcohol; getting in trouble with the law; maintaining healthy social relationships--including getting and staying married etc. And the good news character traits do not end here. Indeed, similar results have been found regarding the traits of perseverance (or grit), curiosity and optimism et al. Unfortunately, it has not been as clear just how we can cultivate these characteristics in young people. Nevertheless, several promising avenues have been identified. To begin with, it has been shown that exposure to highly stressful and traumatic events in childhood can severely hamper the growth of character. However, it has also been shown that strong parental nurturance and attentiveness in response to these traumatic events can overcome the effect of the experiences themselves. In addition, the evidence is that the attentive and nurturing approach is effective even in the absence of traumatic events, as it is highly correlated with strong character development throughout the lifespan. While nurturance is certainly the most important factor early on, Tough argues that the cultivation of character during later childhood and adolescence requires a somewhat different approach. Indeed, it would appear that what is needed at this stage is for the young person to have the opportunity to take risks (some of which will no doubt result in failure), and the ability to manage these failures in a constructive way. Success has been achieved using this approach in such programs as Elizabeth Spiegel's chess program at Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn, and at the KIPP family of schools (while it remains a challenge at schools that cater to the wealthy, such as the Riverdale Country School in New York--on account of the fact that wealthy parents increasingly shield their children from failure). Beyond this, we find that results have also been achieved among some teens simply by informing them of how certain character traits can lead them to greater success, and allowing their own ambition to take over from there. Indeed, it is this very approach that is practiced in the OneGoal education program headed by Jeff Nelson--and the impressive results of this program in preparing underprivileged high school students for college speaks to the success of the approach. Tough's writing style is very readable, honest and unpretentious, and he does an excellent job of supporting the scientific evidence that he introduces with interesting and powerful anecdotes (indeed, many of these are enough to bring you to tears). This is a strong argument in favor of paying closer to attention to cultivating character in young people, both in our personal lives and in our public policy. A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot wordpress dot com on or before Sept. 17; a podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.
Date published: 2012-09-08

Extra Content

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Excerpt

Table of Contents

Introduction xi
1. How to Fail (And How Not to) 1
2. How to Build Character 49
3. How to Think 105
4. How to Succeed 48
5. A Better Path 176
Acknowledgments 199
Notes on Sources 203
Index 223

Editorial Reviews

Drop the flashcards - grit, character, and curiosity matter even more than cognitive skills. A persuasive wake-up call."- People Magazine "In this absorbing and important book, Tough explains why American children from both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum are missing out on these essential experiences. aǪ The book illuminates the extremes of American childhood: for rich kids, a safety net drawn so tight it's a harness; for poor kids, almost nothing to break their fall."-Annie Murphy Paul,aÇÇ The New York Times Book Review "An engaging book that casts the school reform debate in a provocative new light. aǪ [Tough] introduces us to a wide-ranging cast of characters - economists, psychologists, and neuroscientists among them - whose work yields a compelling new picture of the intersection of poverty and education."-Thomas Toch,aÇÇ The Washington Monthly "Mr. Tough's new book,aÇÇHow Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, combines compelling findings in brain research with his own first-hand observations on the front lines of school reform. He argues that the qualities that matter most to children's success have more to do with character - and that parents and schools can play a powerful role in nurturing the character traits that foster success. His book is an inspiration. It has made me less of a determinist,and more of an optimist."-Margaret Wente,aÇÇ The Globe and Mail " How Children Succeed aÇÇis a must-read for all educators. It's a fascinating book that makes it very clear that the conventional wisdom about child development is flat-out wrong."-School Leadership Briefing"I loved this book and the stories it told about children who succeed against big odds and the people who help them. aǪ It is well-researched, wonderfully written and thought-provoking."-Siobhan Curious,aÇÇClassroom as Microcosm" How to Succeed aÇÇtakes readers on a high-speed tour of experimental schools and new research, all peppered with anecdotes about disadvantaged youths overcoming the odds, and affluent students meeting enough resistance to develop character strengths."-James Sweeney,aÇÇ Cleveland Plain Dealer "[This] wonderfully written new book reveals a school improvement measure in its infancy that has the potential to transform our schools, particularly in low-income neighborhoods."-Jay Mathews,aÇÇ Washington Post "Nurturing successful kids doesn't have to be a game of chance. There are powerful new ideas out there on how best to equip children to thrive, innovations that have transformed schools, homes, and lives. Paul Tough has scoured the science and met the people who are challenging what we thought we knew about childhood and success. And now he has written the instruction manual. Every parent should read this book - and every policymaker, too."- Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit "I wish I could take this compact, powerful, clear-eyed, beautifully written book and put it in the hands of every parent, teacher and politician. At its core is a notion that is electrifying in its originality and its optimism: that character - not cognition - is central to success, and that character can be taught.aÇÇ How Children Succeed aÇÇwill change the way you think about children. But more than that: it will fill you with a sense of what could be."-Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here "Turning the conventional wisdom about child development on its head, New York Times Magazine editor Tough argues that non-cognitive skills (persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence) are the most critical to success in school and life? .Well-written and bursting with ideas, this will be essential reading for anyone who cares about childhood in America. "- STARRED Kirkus Reviews 'This American Life contributor Tough ( Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America ) tackles new theories on childhood education with a compelling style that weaves in personal details about his own child and childhood. Personal narratives of administrators, teachers, students, single mothers, and scientists lend support to the extensive scientific studies Tough uses to discuss a new, character-based learning approach."- Publishers Weekly "