How Children Succeed

How Children SucceedHow Children Succeed
by Paul Tough
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genres: Education, Educational Policy & Reform, General, Social Science, Sociology, Business & Economics, Decision-Making & Problem Solving, Psychology
Pages: 288

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“Drop the flashcards—grit, character, and curiosity matter even more than cognitive skills. A persuasive wake-up call.”—People
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 more have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, 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 reveals how this new knowledge can transform young people’s lives. 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 improve the lives of children growing up in poverty. This provocative and profoundly hopeful book will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.
“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.”—New York Times
“I learned so much reading this book and I came away full of hope about how we can make life better for all kinds of kids.”—Slate


I purchased this book because of the title. As a teacher and a mom of three, I have noticed that my kids struggle with sticking through things when something gets tough. This generation specifically seems to give up easily. So, the word grit really stuck out to me.

What I discovered by reading this book, was what I already suspected. This is a lot of research on why grit is what makes a person successful, not academics; that character is the greatest predictor of success.

I kept reading chapter after chapter, hoping to hear some strategies on how I can help my kids build that character. While the author touches a little on some character education that was tried by others, I was left with nothing that I could use.

If I had picked up this book to use as a tool for proving that character is important, I would have appreciated it more. However, my intentions for reading the book was to develop more tools for my teaching tool box. The author does a fantastic job of  looking at successful students of  all classes and races. I appreciate his thoroughness in looking at how poverty affects students and the role a mother places in a child’s early stages of life. I have worked in highly impoverished communities as well as wealthy neighborhoods with entitled children. Both communities have students who fail because of their lack of character.

Now, I am off to find something that will help my children find that grit needed to succeed. I am open to suggestions.



About Paul Tough

Paul Tough is the author, most recently, of Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why. His previous book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, was been translated into 27 languages and spent more than a year on the New York Times hardcover and paperback best-seller lists. His first book, Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America, was published in 2008. He is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, where he has written cover stories on character education, the achievement gap, and the Obama administration’s 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 public-radio program “This American Life.” He was the founding editor of Open Letters, an online magazine. His writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Esquire, GQ, and the New Yorker, and on the op-ed page of the New York Times. He lives with his wife and two sons in Montauk, New York.

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