How Children Succeed

Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Character, not smarts, makes children successful, argues Paul Tough. The good news is that character can be taught. He tells us how in a series of real-life examples.

231 pages. ©2012.
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Reader Reviews for this Book


Review posted November 24, 2018


Knowledgeable and easy to read.


Review posted November 7, 2018


This book has some good pointers. Not one of the best that I've read, but I would recommend it to anyone working with kids or around young students as a reference.


Review posted October 11, 2018


Why do some kids succeed when others don't? This book is just what I was looking for to increase my own knowledge and to share with parents and caregivers. As a grandparent, I will share with my own children. Life skills can be taught. Character is key to kids thriving and life success.

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Review posted September 18, 2018


This book has many great suggestions on how we all can challenge children and ourselves.


Review posted September 14, 2018


I ordered the audio book, which was great for my commute. I would recommend this to any person who is a parent or those who work with children in general.


Review posted July 17, 2018


Excellent insight for educators, parents, and others who work with children.

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Review posted July 5, 2018


The take away from this books is more important that anything I have ever read about children, trauma and resilience. Every child can be successful if they have this one constant in their life. When a child has a loving, consistent, caring and present adult in their live, reacting to and supporting their needs, they can succeed. The most affected kids even have a chance to thrive once that "adult" enters their life. There is hope for every child.


Review posted July 4, 2018


Our current educational system primarily focuses on how to academically prepare students for life after secondary school. Little is often done to prepare students in order to learn. Even beginning at young ages, students need to be prepared and supported holistically in order to be ready to learn. In this book Paul Tough brings into the fold new research that examines the factors that impact student's learning. I found the research and evidence provided to be very intriguing, a very intresting read for educators.


Review posted June 19, 2018


I appreciate that they emphasize that the teaching/practices illustrated in the book are all undergoing research. I could easily see a second book going into more detail once there is more to could off of.


Review posted June 15, 2018


This book was very insightful and I learned a lot!


Review posted June 15, 2018


Very engaging... I haven't finished reading this yet, but it is difficult to put down.


Review posted May 29, 2018


Great book!


Review posted May 7, 2018


Wonderful information and new things to incorporate and help me help my children!!

Toby Abraham-Rhine

Review posted April 8, 2018


I chose this title because I am a school counselor and constantly dealing with trauma, ACES and the effects on children’s learning. While this book did provide a vast research base of in-depth programs around the country, I was hoping for some truly practical pieces of best practices to use to help my students. Theories are enlightening, but I really need tools. The chapters vacillated between engaging, inspirational stories and longer tones about theory. I honestly finally had to skip ahead through the long chapter on chess. The point was made clear early on and I am not a chess player. A good read for overall research. I am looking for a “how to” so that I can do everything within my power to help my students.


Review posted April 5, 2018


The information would be a great introduction to the topic of children's success. I would not suggest this for teachers, social workers, or others who have studied childhood success because this information would have been covered in your studies and it doesn't add anything new to the topic.


Review posted March 14, 2018


This book is an excellent read! It's interesting even for those who don't work directly with kids. Would recommend to anyone as a general non-fiction read for anyone. So interesting!!!


Review posted January 25, 2018


very long and academic.

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Review posted January 11, 2018


Great book that i found helpful in working with youth. I appreciated the real life examples, will be passing book on to my interns.


Review posted December 8, 2017


This book was useful for parents and educator (and policy makers). It highlights that adversity, and how it is handled, can actually be the most important thing in developing a successful child/citizen. Many useful takeaways. I found it to very much support the fact that children, as everyone, need purpose to feel valuable in the world. It also illuminates how important at least one solid supportive relationship is to a child.


Review posted November 28, 2017


A fascinating read! It is well researched and engaging with many personal stories and experiences to relate to. The one shortcoming is that it doesn't help much with what to do to improve the future of many children. It is clear that there are advantages and many of the pieces of childhood that affect people the most are in place at a very early age. It was both encouraging and discouraging to think about improving community.

Jacque Done

Review posted October 27, 2017


This book is worth reading


Review posted October 19, 2017


I enjoyed reading this book! The first few chapters really gave me an idea of the "dog eat dog" world of pre-school applications beginning as young as two years old. It's awful that toddlers would be jockeying for a position in a PRE-SCHOOL! I believe, like the author, that the focus should be on curiosity and discovering the world around them. I also agree with the idea of character being established through trial and error, and the adversity found with the conditions faced by many young children. I think that many children that have gone on to accomplish many things were not the children that were provided a privileged pre-school experience. More over, they were the children that were allowed to be children (get dirty, explore, be exempt from play dates, and electronics)... I do think that this book would be more compelling, however, if it gave concrete examples as research based "cases" in which children did succeed given the circumstances that they would most likely fail.


Review posted October 13, 2017


I really enjoyed reading this book, it's about the expectations we put on children, and we can truly help our children succeed in life, how we can improve the lives of children in poverty, it's a different understanding to today's generation and how to help them grow.


Review posted October 6, 2017


Paul Tough presents an effective tool for parents and caregivers of children, but also for survivors of traumatic childhoods. I learned new skills on multiple levels and was profoundly encouraged in my desire to create positive influence within challenged populations.


Review posted September 22, 2017


What I found so amazing about the message in this book, is that the very obstacles that hold children in poverty back, are the same ones that can be used to propel them forward, if they are equipped with the determination to use their adversity as fuel for success. It is in the equipping that our calling lies: we owe it to the children, to teach them how to rise on the wings of their challenges. We owe it to ourselves, to live this truth first. We can't pass on knowledge we don't understand.


Review posted August 2, 2017


How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. Review by Rebecca Rodet The idea is that one of the most important ways children & young adults alike succeed in life is by mastering certain character traits. Like perseverance, self-control, and most importantly general conscientiousness of self. Then you can begin to move on with that individual and show them that same consciousness for other people, places, things & the environment around them. (Also known as I suppose as self-control. And you can continue to use this as a development of empathy for others.) Depending on the age appropriateness of the child / young adult you are working with.) ;-) I am a mother of a DX 'Mixed Bi-Polar Child'. Now a Young Adult. I have been exposed to the highest level of highs and the lowest of lows since her diagnosis when she was 5. (Yes their is a family history on the paternal side. Her father has always been around and also has Bi-Polar 2.) My goal was to continue without medication while trying to get her through High School & keep self control intact & perseverance to keep up her grades despite her being "different" than her other peers. This book helped give me extra tools to do so. She graduated Valedictorian from High School despite seeing her own fathers Bi-Polar turn abusive towards me (her mother) - Leading to him going to Jail. Her older sister having to return home from being victimized by a brutal rape crime on a University Campus. She continued with the skills that we learned from in this book to keep her focused and bring out those character traits that we all know each of our children have that others may not see. She is starting her 2nd year at a community college this year. Her Major is Criminal Justice with a Minor in Sociology.


Review posted July 29, 2017


I really liked this book and the author's perspective on how children succeed. Super applicable to my work with behaviorally challenged youth! I will be recommending this book to others.

Elsinore Theatre

Review posted July 10, 2017


Very impressed. Scholarly approach. Appreciate the notes and index. This will be helpful as we plan programs for children at the Elsinore. Thank you.


Review posted June 28, 2017


A quick read! But very informative. We should not measure a child's intelligence by IQ Scores. We need to begin looking at things like early childhood development, the value in repetition and the impact of parental involvement/impact. We have perhaps been going about it all wrong, developing skills in a manner which isn't nurturing the success, because we're missing the mark in the power of character.


Review posted June 20, 2017


Looking forward to this summer read.

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Review posted June 5, 2017


This is a wonderful book that supports the argument that students need positive, stable role models to foster success. Paul Tough does a wonderful job of blending research, stories and finds together to create a captivating read that will keep you pondering about how we can engage with students differently to support their learning.


Review posted May 23, 2017


This is an amazing book that gives practical ideas of how to help children succeed. It's not just about intelligence. There is so much more that children need in order to be successful. I highly recommend this book!


Review posted May 16, 2017


As an educator working with students living in high poverty, I found this book gave me new insights as to how to help these students succeed in all aspects of their lives. I am in total agreement that a person's character can be more powerful when trying to navigate the world than being stuck in the situations and mind-set they grew up in as a child. A must-read for all teachers and parents.


Review posted May 16, 2017


This book gave me great insight into working with students in poverty.


Review posted May 8, 2017


This book helped to explore important values that are important to success. It was interesting to hear stories of personal success to understand how these are applied in different situations. These qualities will continue to be necessary in becoming a successful adult getting through college and into career settings.


Review posted May 5, 2017


Enjoying this resource that our school staff is reading together!


Review posted April 9, 2017


Very quick read. Gives some good food for thought about parenting and the response to children under stress. Also, how to develop character and how GPA can tell more about later success in life.

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Review posted March 11, 2017


Such a great inspiring book for children!!!!


Review posted February 26, 2017


How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character By Paul Tough The New York Times, best seller, “How Children Succeed: Grit Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” by Paul Tough, provides a captivating evaluation of how children are able to overcome adversity to succeed in life, scholastically, socially, and emotionally. Tough provides his own introspection as a researcher and writer as well as providing educational and psychological and medical experts’ research and development theories. Compiling anecdotal evidence from his own research along with expert researchers in different fields, Tough provides a well-rounded perspective on just how much character counts in pursuit of success in life despite socioeconomic backgrounds individuals are raised with. Despite decades of research, program planning, and enrichment programs that have been made available to low socioeconomic students the results have been less than proof positive of financial incentives alone, being the prime source of student success rate indicators. Providing enrichment programs in early intervention sources for children of low socioeconomic status has provided initial gains in test scores and success, however long term success had not seemed to continue. Test scores of IQ are often the status que for developing education programs, measuring intellectual capabilities through aptitude testing and measure capacity of knowledge and understanding. However these measures do not offer a guarantee to success and do not seem to always coordinate with the students who do in fact succeed. There seems to be more at stake than simply IQ aptitude. At the axis of this predicament Tough wants to point out that although students of higher socioeconomic status are somewhat insulated from stress and hardships in life, they also are provided with greater support in others ways; language development and knowledge exposure which tends to me three times that of their lower socioeconomic counter parts but this did not seem to be the key to what makes success possible for children either. Character and perseverance prevail time and time again, providing strong support for theories supporting character perseverance and integrity early in children’s lives, continuing throughout their scholastic career. The students who were met with adversity, may have struggled or even faltered along the way, however, each had the same capacity to over-come their circumstances through grit and determination. The consistent similarities of perseverance in the face of adversity provide insight into how educators can and should be adjusting their curriculum to best support their students as they reach for success. Throughout the book Tough provides compelling real life stories of students who have struggled to reach for success, met with daunting adversity and misfortune, however, each that continued on to pursue their education was found to have great character and integrity. Fostering and reinforcing the importance of character, integrity and the need for facing adversity with strength in knowing perseverance has greater significance in life than testable IQ and data scoring will be more beneficial to children in the classroom and in their future success. Adjusting the focus of education paradigms to include character building activities and exercises could prove to be the social change the education platform has been waiting for, boosting graduation rates and pro-social behavior in the community.


Review posted December 12, 2016


We have found this book to be a great reference for child rearing. Sections are well written and the short story examples are interesting and helpful.


Review posted October 8, 2016


This book is not only useful for parents and teachers of young children; it also provided great insight when I was teaching college English classes. As a humanities scholar and teacher, I am passionate about Tough's idea that the "cognitive hypothesis" is not the only measure of intelligence, and I strive to teach my students to think and write about the various personal, social, emotional, and political lessons (among others) that literature presents. I also teach students with the belief that they are all individuals, with unique learning styles and experiences, so this book has provided a helpful foundation. As a program manager for a mentoring program where I teach a leadership class at a community college and recruit and train students to be mentors for disadvantaged youth, I use this book to prompt my students to reflect on their experiences and come up with ways to help their youth build "Tools of the Mind," which I have seen can be a powerful asset not just for kindergarteners, but for students (and people) of any age.


Review posted June 27, 2016


In this absorbing book, Tough describes that resiliency, or character, is the defining factor for success for children experiencing adversity. Rather than intellect, Tough insists that qualities like self-control, perseverance, and curiosity can be the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Tough immerses the reader in case studies demonstrating students who overcome adversity through skills learned from persistent and committed educators. To support his premise, Tough interviews psychologists, economists, and neuroscientists, as well as examining current research. Ultimately, he supports the need for further research in what helps to build resiliency, and what parents and educators can do to instill skills for success.


Review posted June 23, 2016


This book/audio book has confirmed much of what I have previously read about child development. IQ tests are not an accurate measure of success and that emotional and social factors such as determination etc are far more important.

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Review posted June 21, 2016


I read this book with my PLC. It prompted great discussions with my team.


Review posted May 12, 2016


Prior to buying this book I had heard only wonderful things about it. How it is insightful, accurate and informative. I received this book a couple of weeks ago and cannot wait to dive in and read it.


Review posted May 11, 2016


Gritty kids! Love it! Very helpful for me in my work, I am always looking for ways to install and encourage resiliency in the teens and young adults I work with, very helpful!

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Review posted April 26, 2016


Most conversations I'd heard about "How Children Succeed" focused almost entirely on the emphasis it puts on 'grit.' While Tough does explore work on that subject, particularly Angela Duckworth's research, the book also explores ways that grit manifests differently in a prep school than in a KIPP environment, discusses how inelegant and difficult teaching persistence can be, and balances narratives with longitudinal research. It's valuable information to have in reflecting on factors that lead to one's own success, and genuinely useful information to bring to work in social services.


Review posted April 10, 2016


How children succeed taught me a lot about the ways to and to not teach children. The book was very informative and fun to read at the same time while teaching very serious concepts.


Review posted March 27, 2016


Fascinating book that delves into scientific research behind academic success in children and what qualities really matter in measuring intelligence and predicting future success. A must-read for anyone with children and/or working in schools, especially if you are interested in adversities that children in poverty face and what science says they need to overcome them.


Review posted March 24, 2016


I wish this book was in my possession when my daughter was younger I really could have used some of the information in this book

onalee Mansor

Review posted March 17, 2016


This book inspired me to rethink about the importance of intelligence and the emphasis our society places on testing and determining IQ as if that is all there is in determining an individual's success. It emphasized the importance of just one individual in the lives of our marginalized youth and the influence that person can have in the youths success and in building character so essential to real success in life.


Review posted March 12, 2016


Paul Tough shares powerful insight into how possessing specific character strengths is more a predictor for college and life success than academics alone. This is a great resource for students, families, teachers, and administrators wanting to make a difference for students in the 21st century.


Review posted February 10, 2016


Great insight to character and/vs. identity to develop grit in youth to better navigate adversity.


Review posted February 10, 2016


A thought-provoking look at both academic studies and real-life examples of what it takes for children to succeed in school and in life beyond the classroom. I highly recommend it.


Review posted February 7, 2016


Some inspiring thoughts about taking a closer look at our children. I read this and watched them play. I enjoyed this book.

Review posted December 10, 2015


This book was great . I feel more prepared to help my children be successful in school and life.


Review posted December 6, 2015


I really enjoyed reading this book. The author begins with a compelling case for the impact of early childhood on overall life outcomes, largely grounded in the research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Although I had heard of this research before, he was able to describe it's impact in more detail. He then uses a variety of case studies (real-life people/programs) to discuss why kids are failing in high school and college - in essence, its the lack of character traits he describes in detail. Some of the ideas presented were not particularly new to me, but Tough is able to distill the concepts and the research behind them. One of the things I rather enjoyed is the discussion on what is working/making kids succeed as well. As a parent, this book provided valuable insight into rearing children into successful adults. As a citizen, it provided a new lens with which to view some of our society's most challenging issues: poverty and the racial & socioeconomic achievement gaps.


Review posted December 5, 2015


Have read this before. Was insightful to see the examples and research provided


Review posted December 4, 2015


This book explores the idea that underprivileged kids can overcome the challenges of their upbringings through hard work and determination, otherwise described as grit. The author shows how middle and upper class kids have safety nets that keep them on track to graduate high school and usually college, while lower class kids face greater obstacles, such as unstable parenting and family life, the stress of poverty, greater exposure to crime and other self-destructive lifestyles, and a host of associated challenges. The book follows the efforts of different schools to design programs that not only teach at-risk kids the knowledge they'll need to pass exams, but to also instill character and discipline that can carry them into a successful adulthood. The book dips heavily into education and psychology theory, as well as the biophysical and chemical processes of growing up, to understand what's happening in the minds and bodies of struggling youth. Overall, I enjoyed this book and the questions it raised even though I don't necessarily agree with all of the author's conclusions. It is worth reading if you are raising a family or take part in youth programs of any kind.


Review posted November 18, 2015


Technically written..not an easy read and very verbose in stating children that are nurtured and cared for do better in school than kids who are ignored in the home.


Review posted November 17, 2015


Loved this book - it brought together various research on the subject.

Brandon Bretl

Review posted November 17, 2015


The number of other educators I encountered while reading this book who are as fascinated with it as I am speaks accurately of its practical value. As both an educator and a parent I can recommend this book as data driven lens through which to view human development. I specifically encourage the reading of "How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character" alongside other like minded folks with whom you can share insights. This highly sourced book is a great introduction and summary of an idea cluster you'll likely want to explore in greater depth. The folks I met serendipitously while reading this book, and I, have formed a loose affiliation, categorized somewhere between a book club and an ad hoc research team, and focused on pursuit of the adjacent possible following Tough's ideas.


Review posted November 13, 2015


Excellent book. Very easy read. This is a good book for early childhood educators as well as parents!


Review posted November 12, 2015


Loved this one. Lots of great examples to explain the author's basic premise.


Review posted November 8, 2015


Great read. This books makes you think about how you work with youth.


Review posted October 21, 2015


"Why do some children succeed while others fail?" I worked LE for 10 years & watched this happen within family units of all types. Now that I'm a mom I'm trying to uncover this mystery for my own children. Lots of great insights in this book.


Review posted October 18, 2015


Informative and hopeful. This book made me want to read more in the educational research field, and certainly dropped enough names to make searching out further reading simple. I like that it's relatively current as well.


Review posted September 29, 2015


A very global approach to defining and understanding community impact on the success and failure of children both in youth and, later, when they are parents themselves.

Richard LaPlante

Review posted September 8, 2015


Character matters in real life far more than any test scores ever will. I think the author has compiled an overwhelming amount of research done over decades that proves this out. I think the book does an outstanding job of giving a better understanding of what Character means, moral and performance Character.


Review posted August 10, 2015


As a parent, educator, and mentor to students I found this book to be enlightening with fascinating facts regarding childhood development that I was not previously aware of. This book is not a “how-to” guide on how to raise the most successful children but instead provides gripping personal stories coupled with extensive research (presented in a very reader-friendly format) on what factors help children succeed, particularly children from disadvantaged circumstances. I have come away from reading this book with a new found perspective on the challenges children face academically and novel methods that can assist in not only preparing students for college but also developing character traits that help them navigate the trials of life.


Review posted July 29, 2015


Very interesting book about working with large groups of school age children on helping them succeed. The setting is largely in school districts where children are at a disadvantage from the beginning due to their social and economic circumstances.


Review posted July 9, 2015


Great book filled with the latest research on early childhood trauma


Review posted April 28, 2015


This book was interesting and helped me better understand the influence that real life experiences can have on a child and their success. I will definitely think about this when I look at my own children as far as how to measure success and give them the best chance possible.

Mr. Bizjak

Review posted April 8, 2015


How Children Succeed has entered the pedagogical lexicon since it was first published. Words like "grit" and "hidden power of character" have now become the latest buzzwords. Paul Tough in his seminal text argues that every child can succeed, and I have witnessed it first hand. A teacher leader and agent for change, I am passionate about reading all learners in my classroom. My underserved population desperately needs teachers who are going to make student-centered decisions based on their needs. "How Children Succeed," especially chapter 2 that explicates on building character within and out, is a great resource for teachers and teacher-leaders to reflect on their own practices while helping all students become and remain successful.


Review posted March 31, 2015


For anyone who works/lives/interacts with youth, this is a must read. Tough interweaves stories with research. I passed this book onto a high school teacher, who is also the FBLA leader. He said, "I have read a lot of books about youth. This was the best I have read in a long time." I agree.


Review posted March 25, 2015


I absolutely love listening to this book on audio. There are so many thought-provoking ideas on teaching children values in conjunction with academics. In addition, I love that the author believes the key to success is willingness and passion - I think the old adage is true; you can succeed at whatever you put your mind and energy on.

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Review posted March 12, 2015


Since my first attempt at a review had an door when uploading, I will make this brief. This book reinforced the preconceived idea that individuals succeed by overcoming obstacles. The author uses several real-life examples of youth who came from all walks of life and proceeded to succeed at different levels in society. Overall, I enjoyed the audiobook and would recommend it to someone who would like to. Understand the statistical data and evidence that has led to the many ways our nation has attempted to overcome poverty by incorporating programs in the public school system.


Review posted February 23, 2015


Ultimate concept was not a surprise - Kids need a strong home environment. Interesting read. the chess section got a bit long.


Review posted January 25, 2015


I loved this book! Perfect for a neighborhood lending library! Empowering to children and incredibly useful for our community. Thank you!


Review posted January 13, 2015


Very interesting book about different traits that allow children to be successful as adults. A lot of research was included in detail in the book. I listened to the audio recording and it could have stood to be abridged. All in all I would definitely recommend it.