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How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and…

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (edition 2012)

by Paul Tough

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Title:How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
Authors:Paul Tough
Info:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Your library

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

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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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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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 |
Drawing from a combination of research findings and real-world examples, Paul Tough develops the thesis that success is associated more with character - grit, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness - and less with scores on intelligence tests. He shows how stressors experienced by children growing up in low-income neighborhoods can negatively impact success, unless they have parents or other adults who provide them with a secure base in the midst of the stressors. Most interestingly, he provide in-depth reporting on a number of programs that have helped children in difficult situations to develop the grit, self-control, and perseverance they need to succeed.

I bought this book expecting a more psychological approach. I was actually looking for ideas about how I could help my own children succeed. To that end, Tough makes that point that developing grit and perseverance may be difficult if children aren't allowed to fail. It did make me think about giving my children a little more space, letting them make their own mistakes, so that they are willing to take risks and deal with challenges. But for the most part, the book takes a sociological/public policy approach, considering interventions at a societal level with the goal of closing the achievement gap. After reading it, I feel much more informed about the challenges and possibilities facing the education system. ( )
  porch_reader | Apr 14, 2013 |
Rating: 3.5 of 5

Numerous real world examples and case studies. Heavy emphasis on the school system. Strong focus on parenting. Long list of notes to sort through for a proper "review." ( )
  flying_monkeys | Apr 9, 2013 |
I think this was a 3.5** book.

The first two chapters really popped and I had high hopes for the rest of his book. The impact of adverse childhood experiences and poverty felt right on point. I also really believe in attachment theory; without a solid beginning most individuals will struggle in life. The idea that a solid attachment can be a protective factor when it comes to poverty and adversity is also a theory that makes a lot of sense. Tough did a great job laying this foundation for the book.

Unfortunately he veers off into the KIPP charter schools and character education. These chapters have some positives and negatives. I did appreciate how Tough focused on kids living in affluence and in poverty. Both populations do benefit from persistence and perseverance as would anyone. However, most public schools don't have the resources or the longer days for extra support that a KIPP school can allow. For me, KIPP is a poor example for a program that can work in any public school setting.

Personally, I don't like the word 'grit'; for me it is a spin-off of the Protestant Work Ethic- pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Most people in today's educational reform movement believe that all kids can succeed in our current educational system. And after we test them some more, we will be able to prove just that!

It is much easier to pull yourself up when the structural inequalities in our country are in your favor. It is much more difficult to suceed facing obstacles such as unemployment, discrimination and being in a school that isn't clean or safe. I think Tough and I can agree on that.

The last few chapters on college success were sobering. Even if kids make it to this point, very few can remain for the four years and walk away with a degree. A book by Tough on just this topic would definitely be interesting. ( )
  MichelleCH | Apr 5, 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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