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How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character [Hardcover]

Paul Tough
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Sep 2012

Why character, confidence, and curiosity are more important to your child's success than academic results. The New York Times bestseller. For all fans of Oliver James or Steve Biddulph's Raising Boys, Raising Girls, and The Complete Secrets of Happy Children.

In a world where academic success can seem all-important in deciding our children's success in adult life, Paul Tough sees things very differently.

Instead of fixating on grades and exams, he argues that we, as parents, should be paying more attention to our children's characters.

Inner resilience, a sense of curiosity, the hidden power of confidence - these are the most important things we can teach our children, because it is these qualities that will enable them to live happy, fulfilled and successful lives.

In this personal, thought-provoking and timely book, Paul Tough offers a clarion call to parents who are seeking to unlock their child's true potential - and ensure they really succeed.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; 1 edition (4 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780547564654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547564654
  • ASIN: 0547564651
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 371,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Tough is the author, most recently, of "How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character." His first book, "Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America," was published in the U.K. in 2009. He has written extensively about education, child development, poverty, and politics, including cover stories in the New York Times Magazine on character education, the achievement gap, and the Obama administration's anti-poverty policies. He has worked as an editor at the New York Times Magazine and Harper's Magazine and as a reporter and producer for the American public-radio program "This American Life." He was the founding editor of Open Letters, an online magazine. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Slate, GQ, Esquire, and Geist, and on the op-ed page of the New York Times. He lives with his wife and son in New York.

Product Description


"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)

"Every parent should read this book - and every policymaker, too." (Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit)

"A timely and essential message . a brilliantly readable account of the growing evidence that inner resources count more than any amount of extra teaching support or after-school programmes when it comes to overcoming education disadvantage" (Independent)

"Absorbing and important." (New York Times) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Why character, confidence, and curiosity are more important to your child's success than academic results. The New York Times bestseller. For all fans of Oliver James or Steve Biddulph's Raising Boys, Raising Girls, and The Complete Secrets of Happy Children. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why children succeed, but not 'How'. 14 July 2013
I am a father of two young children, and I suspect that many people who buy it will be in a similar circumstance, curious how they might help their own children succeed. However, the book is more about why low income children succeed or fail considering influences at home and in their schools, and how America in particular has tried to address education for low income students in the past few decades. The book is very important for this reason. But it is not about 'how' to get children to succeed, although it does provide a couple of interesting anecdotal stories (but one must be careful with anecdotes). The reasons children succeed seem to be character traits as opposed to raw intelligence or test scores or teaching of information, which is fascinating and described well by Mr Tough. But the book does not really address 'how' to produce the key character traits. I enjoyed the book and recommend it - interesting, well written, informative. But it is written from a macro society level and not at a micro/personal level which is how I think it is being marketed and what I suspect many buyers are looking for.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This is an excellent book on some of the misconceptions, myths, and challenges that children face when attempting to succeed. Traits and skills previously thought fixed and unmalleable, like character, turn out to be mouldable, while IQ turns out to be a very unreliable predictor of success. The author chronicles the challenges of a few teachers, students, and administrators as it blends glimpses into academic research with first-hand accounts of on-the-ground challenges faced by these people.

The structure of the book is very, very self-explanatory - there are only five chapters in the book - "How To Fail (And How Not To)", "How To Build Character", "How To Think", "How To Succeed", and "A Better Path". For my money, I think the first and second chapters - "How To Fail" and "How To Build Character" are well worth the price of the book - you would do well to read these carefully.

That many of US schools are not performing is not news. That several of these schools happen to be in poor neighbourhoods is also not unknown. Millions, and billions of dollars at the national level spent, and a score or more programs have been launched, scrapped, and launched - all in the hopes of improving measurable outcomes in the form of improved scores, lower dropout rates, sustained efforts that lead to more students finishing high school and college. All with varying degrees of success. The effort to find more fundamental causes of poor academic performance and poor social skills among students therefore continues.

"In 2008, eighty-three school-age teenagers were murdered in the city, and more than six hundred were shot but survived." The city being Chicago, where the "murder rate is twice as high as the rate in Los Angeles.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has a very interesting central thesis - that what makes for success in life is not primarily innate abilities, but rather qualities of character, and that these can be taught. They can be taught for example through expert parenting (rats who lick and groom their infants, human parents who promote secure attachment in their children) through school programme of character building (two contrasting approaches, for rich and poor children are described - neither seemed all that convincing to this reader), through chess programmes at an inner city school (clearly good at helping children learn chess - but the author remarks of the clearly very remarkable chess teacher in question that she is probably happier being married now than when she was personally maxing out her chess ranking). American students can also be helped in their college careers through a mix of intensive tuition, mapping out the paths to college entry (knowing what institutions to apply to etc), and 'non cognitive academic skills' ie working on a completer-finisher mentality, which may matter more than anything else.

This certainly held my attention - and makes an interesting contribution to the really fundamental questions about how we should best live - but ultimately it does so through what is effectively as a series of interesting articles about interesting encounters with a common theme. It's not a fully worked out theory about how best to parent or how best to live.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good
Published 1 month ago by Huw J. Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
I found this book very interesting, well written and researched. As an individual who has come from a difficult childhood I can totally relate to the stories told by Paul Tough. Read more
Published 3 months ago by joel burns
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book!
Really interesting especially the first part on the early development of children. I was already mildly aware of this but it took it a bit further. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mrs Vanessa M Viles
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly optimistic
A cogent, informative and optimistic book. Tough's thesis is straightforward, and not completely new, but he may be the first author to draw together so many strands in one work,... Read more
Published 8 months ago by John Baird
4.0 out of 5 stars The importance of executive funcion beside and a bit over IQ
The latest results from nobel laureate JJ Heckman's re-analysis of the Perry Preschool and Abecedarian trials and from Neuroscience should have profound consequences on how we help... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mermaid on the Dolphin's Back
3.0 out of 5 stars I had hope for a more instructional book on parenting
The book is a journalist look at current developments in social engineering in the aspect of increasing underprivileged children's educational prospects in the USA. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Horvendille
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
This book has practical advice that can help any parent. And some of the subjects are based on commonsense guides.
Published 11 months ago by onethorn
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful and detailed examination of education in the modern age
This is one of the best books I have read. Paul Tough has done painstaking research, interviews fascinating people and does a n important thing asking difficult questions of all... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Anjali Ramachandran
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, inspiring book
If you have children, this is a must read. Especially if you think your child has to read and count at the age of 2 to succeed in life - you will get a better look at what is... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent contemporary information
My wife found this book enlightening whilst preparing for an interview for a senior position in teaching. Read more
Published 15 months ago by David Manning
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