Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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. While traditional education relies heavily on memorization, new research conducted by James Heckman suggests that the conventional wisdom represented by those third-grade multiplication tables has failed some of our most vulnerable students. Tough takes the reader through experiments that studied childhood nurture, or attachment theory, to report cards that featured character strength assessments (measuring 'grit,' gratitude, optimism, curiosity, self-control, zest, and social intelligence). Focused on schools in Chicago and New York, Tough explores the effects of racial and socioeconomic divides through the narratives of survivors of an outdated system. The ultimate lesson of Tough's quest to explain a new wave of educational theories is that character strengths make up perhaps the single most compelling element of a child's education, and these traits are rooted deep within the chemistry of the brain. Tough believes that it is society's responsibility to provide those transformative experiences that will create its most productive future members. Agent: David McCormick, McCormick & Williams. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"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
"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." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"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....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." The New York Times Book Review
"An engaging book that casts the school reform debate in a provocative new light....[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." The Washington Monthly
"Mr. Tough's new book,How 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." The Globe and Mail
"I loved this book and the stories it told about children who succeed against big odds and the people who help them....It is well-researched, wonderfully written and thought-provoking." Siobhan Curious, Classroom as Microcosm
"How to Succeed takes 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." 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." Washington Post
"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. How Children Succeed will 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
A foremost New Yorker and New York Times journalist reverses three decades of thinking about what creates successful children, solving the mysteries of why some succeed and others fail — and of how to move individual children toward their full potential for success.
What if, for decades, we've emphasized the wrong skills and used the wrong strategies to move children toward success in school and in life? Sure, intelligence matters, Paul Tough writes, but it is just one part of the success equation. Tough introduces readers to the psychologists, neuroscientists, and economists who are solving the mysteries of character, exploring traits like perseverance, optimism, grit, curiosity, and conscientiousness. How do these traits develop? And why they are such powerful predictors of success? Through the engrossing, inspiring stories of children, parents, teachers, and mentors, Tough investigates questions at the heart of the success equation: How do you turn a D student into a national chess champion? How are affluent parents preventing their children from developing grit? What simple message helps girls improve their math scores by 10 percentage points? And why does the U.S. produce more college dropouts than any other country? This rich and provocative dispatch will not only vitally engage readers, it will change our understanding of childhood itself.
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 for a very different understanding of what makes a successful child. Drawing on groundbreaking research in neuroscience, economics, and psychology, Tough shows that the qualities that matter most have less to do with IQ and more to do with character: skills like grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.
How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of scientists and educators who are radically changing our understanding of how children develop character, how they learn to think, and how they overcome adversity. It tells the personal stories of young people struggling to say on the right side of the line between success and failure. And it argues for a new way of thinking about how best to steer an individual child — or a whole generation of children — toward a successful future.
This provocative and profoundly hopeful book will not only inspire and engage readers; it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.
About the Author
Paul Tough is an editor at the New York Times magazine and one of America's foremost writers on poverty, education, and the achievement gap. His reporting on Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone originally appeared as a New York Times magazine cover story. He lives with his wife in New York City.
Table of Contents
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
Notes on Sources 203