Book Review: How Children Succeed by Paul Tough

We’re avid readers here at Inspire Education. We love stories, we love learning and we love sharing new ideas. So we thought we’d bring you regular reviews on educational books that we’ve given the big ‘thumbs-up’ (English phrase meaning sign of approval). Whether you’re a parent or a student, we hope you enjoy finding out about new reads and please let us know what you think, or if you have any suggestions. Ready for our first book?

Success means different things to different people; it’s an ambiguous, abstract concept that is deeply personal. However, one thing holds true: we all want ‘success’ for ourselves, and/or our children. So when we stumbled across Paul Tough’s International Bestseller How Children Succeed, we were intrigued. In fact, it was the strapline that really caught our attention: Confidence, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. There was something about this message that seemed to resonate with our own Inspire Core Values. So we read on…

Tough investigates what really lies at the heart of success, unconvinced that a child’s academic success is the true indicator of lifelong success. Rather, he argues that we – parents, teachers, role models – should focus on the child’s character.

Again, character is a slippery word that Tough himself acknowledges is difficult to define. He offers a list of seven qualities that quantify character: grit, self-control, zest, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity. Through his research, he discovers that ‘the best way for a young person to build character is for him to attempt something where there is a real and serious possibility of failure.’

Failure. It should be the antithesis of success, right? Wrong. Failure, as Tough argues, is the gateway to success. If we learn to fail, we learn to succeed, by building character that will ultimately lead to ‘a happy, meaningful, productive life.’

So what lessons can we take from this at Inspire? For a start, we hope that students attending our summer schools will not fret too much about the language element of the course. Our Inspire King and Queen at the end of the course are not students who spoke the best English, or did the best in class. No, they are students who weren’t afraid to gives things a go, to fail perhaps. What’s more, success for Inspire ultimately means having a good time, so if you’re having fun, we’re happy!

Stay tuned for our next book review in a few weeks time…

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