I'm a costume designer, makeup artist, teacher, mom, knitter, baker, want-to-learn-how-to-do-it-all

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I'm a costume designer, makeup artist, teacher, mom, sewer, knitter, baker, want-to-learn-how-to-do-it-all, blogging, Costumed Beagle enthusiast. I am not always pleasant, although through intensive cupcake therapy I have learned not to throw knives at people anymore.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: How Children Succeed

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of CharacterBy Paul Tough


I heard several interviews in succession with the Author.  One on Radio West with our local Doug Fabrizio and the other showed up in an episode of This American Life with my other voice/brain crush, Ira Glass.  
So I requested that our little library order this book, which they did (they always do-we love them) and settled in for an interesting read.
Now the book isn't really going to teach you to be a better parent, necessarily.  It isn't really a "help" book so much as an informational book. And, in fact, I think if you are reading the book, you are probably well beyond needing the information in it.  But it is interesting.
He talks a bit about the affect of early nurturing on babies, with some particular studies done on rat babies.  No news there, babies who needs are met, probably are going to get some developmental advantages.
But he spends quite a bit of time exploring under-performing urban schools and talking to people to are in the trenches trying to figure out how to help kids who are growing up in stressed circumstances.  Because that seems to be one of the biggest indicators to both their success and overall health.  How much stress they are exposed to....and kids who go hungry and are afraid of being shot on their way to school are exposed to a LOT of stress.
Then, of course, there is the question of Why do some kids succeed and others don't?  What is the thing that seems to help kids out, in all sorts of situations...and it turns out it is character.  And some of of our most privileged kids aren't developing it.  So there is a really stark contrast to kids with no stress, not developing a necessary skill, and kids to are getting too much of it, so they aren't developing the skills they need either.
I liked this, because for most of my life I've wanted to be smarter, however, at some point in my adult life, after having met several really really smart people...I realized I had something they didn't have, and it almost served me better: I have always characterized it as a combination of determination and stubbornness, but in the book they refer to it as grit. And grit, it turns out, has always helped me "get er done."  Which some of my much smarter friends and counter-parts just don't seem to be able to do.  I may not be as smart, but I show up and get it done.
And it turns out, scientists are trying to figure out what develops this grit or character, because it is really valuable.  And many educators are starting to focus on this as well, because it is such a strong indicator of how successful students will be not just in high school, but in college and in life.  Did you know that we've done a really good job of getting kids to go to college, in the U.S. but they don't stay and finish?  We have the highest college drop out rate in the industrialized world.  We don't know how to stick it out and get it done.  It is a huge problem.
The book tackles several different sides to character and does a good job of explaining lots of research studies succinctly and coherently for non-researcher readers.
Again, it sort of seems like the kind of book over-eager parents like myself would pick up to improve parenting techniques, but in reality it is more of an exploration of the theme and the ideas around it.

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