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

4.2 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio; Unabridged edition (4 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452608148
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452608143
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.8 x 13.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,775,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
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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