The New York Times - Notable Books of 2012

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How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (2012)

Written by Paul Tough

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 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, not only affects the conditions of children’s lives, it can also alter the physical development of their brains. But innovative thinkers around the country are now using this knowledge to help children overcome the constraints of poverty. With the right support, 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. (Copyright © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.)

Source:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

Paul Tough is the author, most recently, of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, which has spent 12 weeks on the New York Times best seller list. His first book, Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America, was published in 2008.

Paul is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, where he has written extensively about education, parenting, poverty, and politics, including cover stories on character education, the achievement gap, and the Obama administration’s poverty policies. His writing has also appeared in the New Yorker, Slate, GQ, Esquire, and Geist, and on the op-ed page of the New York Times.

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.

He lives with his wife and son in New York.

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