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

by Paul Tough

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4932120,740 (3.93)22
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  1. 00
    Work hard. Be nice. : how two inspired teachers created the most promising schools in America by Jay Mathews (bluenotebookonline)
    bluenotebookonline: Both books feature an in-depth look at KIPP: Mathews focuses on the organization's early development and growth, while Tough focuses on KIPP's efforts to improve in later years.
  2. 00
    Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham (bluenotebookonline)
    bluenotebookonline: Very readable book on cognitive science as it applies to teaching and learning. It's a nice complement to Tough's book, which focuses on the non-cognitive factors that influence a student's likelihood of success in school.
  3. 00
    Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck (bluenotebookonline)
    bluenotebookonline: Tough goes broad on a range of non-cognitive factors that influence the likelihood that students will be successful (grit, perseverance, curiosity, etc.); Dweck goes deep on one factor (having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset). Both are highly readable (though FWIW, I found Dweck repetitive and preferred Tough's book).… (more)
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» See also 22 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
I listened to the audio version of this book and was able to take in the information in several different capacities. As an educator I was able to look at the technical aspects of teaching, as someone who never really went to college, I enjoyed listening to what was said about the higher education system, and as someone who hopes to one day become a parent, I was able to look forward to what I may or may not do to help encourage my child in their learning.

This was a very wordy book, as most books on education and social status are. Some things might have been talked a little bit to death, but overall I honestly enjoyed listening to the various stories of students and schools that were presented. I think it progresses well and covers as many facts and cases as is possible in the amount of time allotted to it. You simply can't cover every aspect of education without having a thousand page book. Everyone has their own opinions and I think this book makes its point very well. Basically, we focus so much on making children succeed, we forget that we need to allow them to learn from their failures.

This book came to me through my library's monthly book group and I wouldn't necessarily have picked it up otherwise, but I am glad that I did. I think more people, be they parents or teachers, should read this in order to broaden their ideas of how to help children accomplish goals and acquire the skills necessary for learning. ( )
  mirrani | Oct 5, 2014 |
I had high hopes for How Children Succeed by Paul Tough and it proved to be thought-provoking, especially in the first half of the book. Tough challenges the assumption that success is highly correlated with acquired knowledge and IQ, pointing out, in a very measured way, that character is far more important than IQ even though character strengths such as perserverance, grit, determination and curiosity are both harder to teach and to measure. The author also scored points for pointing out that although poor students from troubled homes experience severe setbacks to building resiliance, and most of his emphasis is rightly on lasting effects of childhood insecurity, he also points out that this problem affects the affluent as well, accurately pointing out that many afffluent young people in private schools are succesfully sheltered from failure, the result being that many are afraid to take risks. The second half of the book does not live up to the premise of the opening chapters though, The young people he profiles are fascinating, but in the end the book is far better at telling us why children fail than it is at offering suggestions for helping them to succeed. ( )
  dooney | Aug 7, 2014 |
The word grit is thrown around a lot these days. The title of this book is misleading: it is more of a love letter to charter schools and Teach for America than it is a useful guide. While interesting to read, it was more of a policy book than a pedagogy/parenting book. Do look into Carol Dweck's growth mindset writing.
  hcurrey | Jul 30, 2014 |
Character matters to children’s success (and adults) and can be taught in school, but not in the sense of the moral virtues. Rather, the character that education should aim for involves performance virtues—sticking to something even when it’s hard, learning from failure, believing that one will eventually succeed. Character matters, but this shouldn’t be seen as an excuse for inaction until somehow poor-performing children magically develop character. To the contrary, character traits are profoundly affected by circumstances, especially trauma that increases stress; compensating for the many harms and uncertainties associated with poverty requires deliberate and targeted intervention. Tough offers some examples of programs with high success rates that focus on teaching perserverance and related skills; the problem is that they involve long-term commitment to the well-being of poor people, which isn’t currently as popular as firing teachers. ( )
1 vote rivkat | Jun 21, 2013 |
Overall, I found this book fascinating. I think I can now better understand the important role of character in our lives. In the end, I wanted better solutions but the takeaway lesson of the call for a positive mentor and role model is empowering to teachers. ( )
  ydenomy | May 11, 2013 |
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To Ellington, who prefers books about dump trucks
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In the summer of 2009, a couple of weeks after my son, Ellington, was born, I spent the day in a prekindergarten classroom in a small town in New Jersey.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0547564651, Hardcover)

Q&A with Paul Tough

Paul Tough

Q. What made you want to write How Children Succeed?

A. In 2008, I published my first book, Whatever It Takes, about Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone. I spent five years reporting that book, but when I finished it, I realized I still had a lot of questions about what really happens in childhood. How Children Succeed is an attempt to answer those questions, which for many of us are big and mysterious and central in our lives: Why do certain children succeed while other children fail? Why is it, exactly, that poor children are less likely to succeed, on average, than middle-class children? And most important, what can we all do to steer more kids toward success?

Q. Where did you go to find the answers?

A. My reporting for this book took me all over the country, from a pediatric clinic in a low-income San Francisco neighborhood to a chess tournament in central Ohio to a wealthy private school in New York City. And what I found as I reported was that there is a new and groundbreaking conversation going on, out of the public eye, about childhood and success and failure. It is very different than the traditional education debate. There are economists working on this, neuroscientists, psychologists, medical doctors. They are often working independently from one another. They don’t always coordinate their efforts. But they’re beginning to find some common ground, and together they’re reaching some interesting and important conclusions.

Q. A lot of your reporting for this book was in low-income neighborhoods. Overall, what did you learn about kids growing up in poverty?

A. A lot of what we think we know about the effect of poverty on a child’s development is just plain wrong. It’s certainly indisputable that growing up in poverty is really hard on children. But the conventional wisdom is that the big problem for low-income kids is that they don’t get enough cognitive stimulation early on. In fact, what seems to have more of an effect is the chaotic environments that many low-income kids grow up in and the often stressful relationships they have with the adults around them. That makes a huge difference in how children’s brains develop, and scientists are now able to trace a direct route from those early negative experiences to later problems in school, health, and behavior.

The problem is that science isn’t yet reflected in the way we run our schools and operate our social safety net. And that’s a big part of why so many low-income kids don’t do well in school. We now know better than ever what kind of help they need to succeed in school. But very few schools are equipped to deliver that help.

Q. Many readers were first exposed to your reporting on character through your article in the New York Times Magazine in September 2011, which was titled "What If the Secret to Success Is Failure?" How does failure help us succeed?

A. That’s an idea that I think was best expressed by Dominic Randolph, the head of the Riverdale Country School, an exclusive private school in the Bronx where they’re now doing some interesting experiments with teaching character. Here’s how he put it: "The idea of building grit and building self-control is that you get that through failure. And in most highly academic environments in the United States, no one fails anything."

That idea resonated with a lot of readers. I don’t think it’s quite true that failure itself helps us succeed. In fact, repeated failures can be quite devastating to a child’s development. What I think is important on the road to success is learning to deal with failure, to manage adversity. That’s a skill that parents can certainly help their children develop--but so can teachers and coaches and mentors and neighbors and lots of other people.

Q. How did writing this book affect you as a parent?

A. My wife and I became parents for the first time just as I started reporting this book, and our son Ellington is now three. Those are crucial years in a child’s development, and I spent a lot of them reading papers on the infant brain and studies on attachment and trauma and stress hormones, trying not to get too overwhelmed.

In the end, though, this research had a surprising effect: it made me more relaxed as a parent. When Ellington was born, I was very much caught up in the idea of childhood as a race--the faster a child develops skills, the better he does on tests, the better he’ll do in life. Having done this reporting, I’m less concerned about my son’s reading and counting ability. Don’t get me wrong, I still want him to know that stuff. But I think he’ll get there in time. What I’m more concerned about is his character--or whatever the right synonym is for character when you’re talking about a three-year-old. I want him to be able to get over disappointments, to calm himself down, to keep working at a puzzle even when it’s frustrating, to be good at sharing, to feel loved and confident and full of a sense of belonging. Most important, I want him to be able to deal with failure.

That’s a difficult thing for parents to give their children, since we have deep in our DNA the urge to shield our kids from every kind of trouble. But what we’re finding out now is that in trying to protect our children, we may actually be harming them. By not giving them the chance to learn to manage adversity, to cope with failure, we produce kids who have real problems when they grow up. Overcoming adversity is what produces character. And character, even more than IQ, is what leads to real and lasting success.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:35 -0400)

"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 this book the author argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control. The book 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, the author 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 the author's reporting makes clear, children who grow up in the most painful circumstances can go on to achieve amazing things. This book has the potential to change how we raise our children, how we run our schools, how we construct our social safety net and also to change our understanding of childhood itself"--Dust jacket.… (more)

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