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How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character Hardcover – Sep 4 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (Sept. 1 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547564654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547564654
  • ASIN: 0547564651
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #67,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


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

From the Inside Flap

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 toimprove the lives ofchildren growing up in poverty.
Early adversity, scientists have come to understand, not only affects the conditions of children s lives, it can also alter the physical development of their brains. Butinnovative thinkersaround the country are nowusing this knowledge tohelp children overcome the constraints of poverty. With the right support, 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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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

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 studies have 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’s better than their IQ scores. 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.
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Format: Hardcover
Paul Tough discusses very important research on success. This is both interesting and important to parents of children, as you guide them to strive and succeed in school, sports, hobbies, and ultimately life. I also found it an interesting book to better understand drivers of success in the working world. Tough points out that character traits like perseverance, grit, and curiosity - contribute strongly to career success.

The bottom line is - teach your children self-control, the ability to delay gratification (as opposed to the instant gratification world we live in), and perseverance/grit skills - to succeed in school and beyond.

What I would have liked would be a list of "how to's" and exercises that can be done with the children to strengthen their perseverance/grit. That also applies for your own professional life. Just knowing the important traits does not mean you automatically get better or stronger at them. They need focused practice - so tips would have been useful.

Truly enjoyed the "Mental Contrasting" refresher and suggestion. This is a great concept of concentrating on a positive outcome for a particular adversity/situation, AND also concentrate on the obstacles you may encounter. The next step is to concentrate on imagining overcoming those obstacles. That helps you stay focused on persevering toward your goal overcoming the challenges that will inevitably arise.

Great read. Good perspective for parents and careerists.
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Format: Hardcover
After reading a few reviews of "How Children Succeed," I expected a how-to book for parents and educators including tips on building character. Instead, "New York Times Magazine" editor Paul Tough presents the argument that children's non-cognitive skills like persistence, conscientiousness and grit predict success more accurately than their cognitive ones.

Tough interviewed economists, psychologists and neuroscientists, examined their recent research, and talked to students, teachers and principals before publishing this fascinating overview of a new approach to teaching struggling students. These students may lack cognitive training but Tough shows that policymakers intent on closing the achievement gap between affluent and poor children must go beyond classroom interventions and supplement the parenting resources of disadvantaged Americans. He reveals a stunning correlation between traumatic childhood events and negative adult outcomes, emphasizing the importance of close, nurturing relationships. Finally, Tough cites many examples of failing students who turned things around by acquiring character skills that substituted for the social safety net enjoyed by affluent students.

Well-written and filled with fresh ideas, "How Children Succeed" makes for a thought-provoking read.
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Format: Hardcover
The question I selected as a title for this review is one of several to which Paul Tough responds in this book. The titles of the first four chapters suggest others: How to Fail (and How Not to), How to Build Character, How to Think, and finally, How to Succeed. According to an ancient Africa an aphorism, it takes a village to raise a child. In the Introduction, Tough briefly discusses several research studies whose findings have had a great impact on child development in the U.S. (especially in public schools), for better or worse. He asserts that "conventional wisdom about child development over the past two decades has been misguided. We have been focusing on the wrong skills and abilities in our children, and we have been using the wrong strategies to help nurture and teach those skills." If it will take a society to develop a child, what specifically does Tough recommend? Where to begin?

No brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of material that Tough provides, supplemented by 19 pages of extensively annotated notes. Also, those who have already reviewed the book have identified what they found most important, most valuable to them. Briefly, here are five of the several dozen passages that caught my eye:

"There is something undeniably compelling about the cognitive hypothesis [i.e. the number of words a child hears from parents early in life determines academic success later]. The world it describes is so neat, so reassuringly linear, such a clear case of inputs [begin italics] here [end italics] to outputs [begin italics] here [end italics]." However, in recent years, research conducted by individuals and teams raises questions about many of the assumptions behind the cognitive hypothesis.
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