Saturday, November 24, 2012

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

How Children Succeed:  Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
By Paul Tough
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. 231 pgs. Nonfiction

One would have to have his/her head buried in a Sahara full of sand not to know that educational opportunities in the United States are sharply split along the lines of poverty versus plenty. And what has been most discouraging in recent years is that even the most determined, compassionate, and well-financed efforts to address those differences often don't make enough of a difference.  Recent research shows that often poor children are unable to overcome their disadvantages because of the way a young child's body responds to stress; in this case, to the relentless stress of not enough to eat, gunfire and sudden death in the neighborhood or in one's family, little access to health care. Actual changes in brain chemistry and an amped-up bodily stress management system do damage at a very young age to children raised in a relentlessly crisis-ridden environment. Research suggests that interventions to give children intellectual and character education--helping them to learn to be resourceful, self-calming, optimistic, conscientious, curious, and gritty--make a world of difference to kids in difficult circumstances as do loving nurturing parents or other adults. "How Children Succeed . . ." is an essential book in better understanding how to close the achievement gap and give our children--all our children--the opportunity for a good and happy life.


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