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

“… in How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, 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.”

Review of How Children Succeed by Paul Tough  by Guardian here

“The author has followed some of urban America’s poorest young people through their secondary school careers over some years, tracking their rocky road towards higher education and revealing how their teachers are compensating for the missing investment in their early years by fostering what Tough sums up as “character”. The components of character include resilience, self‑control, optimism and (Tough’s favourite) grit. And he argues that it helps young people absorb and act on criticism, overcome setbacks and meet frustration and obstacles with renewed determination. Those who manage to graduate from high school despite poverty and an absence of supportive role models have to have more reserves of character than their socially cushioned peers.”

And also  (Brief Thoughts by Rebecca Read)

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough (Houghton Mifflin, 2012) is a volume exploring why certain children succeed, despite the odds. He focuses on the children who are most struggling. Some of them succeed, by going to college and becoming successful, contributing members of society. What in their personality allowed them to overcome their past and succeed?

I really appreciated Tough’s research and the inspiring stories he shared. He argued that while learning letters and numbers and other “kindergarten ready” facts are helpful, what really helps children succeed in their lives is learning to deal with the frustrations of life (which he called developing “grit”), developing determination, and learning to improve and put forth extra effort when you make mistakes. He looked at schools full of well-to-do children from wealthy families, and he found that many did not know how to work. He also looked at students from poor, underprivileged families and found that some of them had developed grit and determination.

Education, he argues, is not just about book learning but about life learning and overcoming. There is a lesson to me in this as I teach my young son at home. I hope that I can exemplify to my kids the grit, determination, and confidence necessary to success in life. Tough’s book was not surprising or groundbreaking to me, but it did inspire me in my home education goals.

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