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

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

by Paul Tough


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“Drop the flashcards—grit, character, and curiosity matter even more than cognitive skills. A persuasive wake-up call.”—People

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 more have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, 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 reveals how this new knowledge can transform young people’s lives. 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 improve the lives of children growing up in poverty. This provocative and profoundly hopeful book will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.

“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.”—New York Times

“I learned so much reading this book and I came away full of hope about how we can make life better for all kinds of kids.”—Slate

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544104402
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 07/02/2013
Pages: 231
Sales rank: 43,727
Product dimensions: 5.44(w) x 7.82(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

PAUL TOUGH is the author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America. He has written extensively about education, child development, and poverty in cover stories for the New York Times Magazine, and in The New Yorker, Slate, GQ, Esquire, and the New York Times.

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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

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Well-written and bursting with ideas, this will be essential [listening] for anyone who cares about childhood in America." —-Kirkus Starred Review

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How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
popscipopulizer More than 1 year ago
*A full executive summary of this book will be available at the website newbooksinbrief dot wordpress dot com, on or before Monday September 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. 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 the website newbooksinbrief dot wordpress dot com on or before Monday, September 17; a podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A highly readable account and convinciargument whys about why it is not enough to learn (and forget) information or problem solving skills, we need non-cognitive skills like persistence and resilience to succeed. Those skills can be taught...and must be taught, especially to children whose poverty and resulting dislocations put them most at risk. This book can help us change the education paradigm and promote a more helpful dialog about how to improve education in America.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be revealing and hopeful in its discussion of the need for children to develop character first and then skills second - the real education for children comes often when no one is watching or thinking about their education. They need to fail sometimes and learn how to develop "grit" self control, curiosity conscientiousness and confidence in themsleves. Habits developed in the first few years of life prepare a person for the rest of their life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book that is making me re-think the important parts of teaching... Why is it important to read The Great Gatsby? Is it because it's a "classic"? Or is it because it teaches character? And the process of reading it teaches character? Good book filled with data.
jonpeske More than 1 year ago
This book will be of interest to parents, educators, business people, and those involved in public policy because it looks at a question that lies at the root of many of the issues we argue about in the public sphere: What is it that makes children grow up to be successful people? What does it take to succeed in school, in college, and in life? And is it something that those of us who interact with children can influence? Paul Tough begins by arguing that the “cognitive hypothesis” is seriously misguided. This is the idea that what matters most is intelligence and information. Hence, we must try to get as much as we can into our kids brains, starting with playing Mozart in utero so that they can grow up to be “smart.” For example, this theory would imply that what matters in high school is the information you are taught. Therefore, if you can show by taking a test that you understand the information, you should be just as well off as someone who has sat through four years of classes. And yet, according to the study he cites by James Heckman, this is not the case. Though GED holders are more intelligent than high school dropouts, their life outcomes (college completion rates, income, divorce rate, etc.) were more similar to high school dropouts than high school graduates. The issue was that success requires the discipline and persistence to see a task through, even when it takes a long time and may seem boring or pointless at times. So, the point of this book is that character matters—in school, and broadly, in life. And the key character traits that matter are not what he terms “moral character:” fairness, generosity, inclusion, tolerance—the things that most school character programs emphasize; but rather “performance character:” those old fashioned concepts like hard work, conscientiousness, and persistence. Tough argues that these character traits can be taught and fostered in young people as they mature and that this would be a place where we should focus our efforts as parents, teachers, and public policy makers. He uses two key case studies to explore these concepts. One is a character building program that is a joint effort between an inner city KIPP charter school and a tony private school catering to wealthy parents. The other is a champion middle school chess program in a New York City public school. Ultimately, I didn’t think that he fully clarified exactly how this could be done on a broader scale, but he certainly tells a number of engaging stories of individual success and cites current research relating to the power of character. This book will extend the conversation on character, but leaves room for others to continue exploring these issues. It will leave you with a lot to ponder, especially if you are responsible for any children or young adults.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not an educator, just a parent and grand parent. This book made a lot of sense to me, especially in explaining why some programs may not lead to lasting success. My only quibble is that the book wasnt as replete as it could be in describing successful methods of teaching character.
rpmcestmoi More than 1 year ago
The author writes well enough and is good at synthesizing study results. He is a little less good at putting all in the context of the title. He sometimes goes on too long about one study and/or story that acts as an exemplar of a theory of development toward "success". Worthwhile for a careful reader but rather less than prescriptive as the title suggests. For what it is, good. For what it pretends to be by titling, less good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend purchasing this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Suburban parents need to read this. Inspires to want to teach challenged kids .
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SandytheSailor More than 1 year ago
The book was OK; not thrilled. I am an educator so most of the info was familiar to me. My only complaint, was not enough said about children in elementary school.
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Thought I would learn a few things on how to make my kids better, but the book is all about how low income children don't excel due their status. I had to quit reading after the second to last chapter,, the chess chapter. Nothing in this book taught me anything to make my kids better. If I was a teacher in a low income situation, and I had no clue what I was doing I would recommend this book. However, as a parent trying to find a leg up, I would not recommend. This book will be in my next garage sale.
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bloozfleur More than 1 year ago
I thought this was excellent. I also bought a copy for my daughter's teacher as a gift and wish I could buy copies for every teacher at my daughters school.
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Allroy More than 1 year ago
Good read that focuses on building character in schools. The deflating part for me is how feasible it is. There are some superb examples in this book of teachers who go way above and beyond in their profession. I just don't expect Joe Public to jump on in and volunteer with tutoring, after school services, and providing the mentorship that is so well described in this book.
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