Helping Children Succeed

Helping Children Succeed

This succinct book is packed full of science-based information. The first half focuses mainly on children who are growing up with trauma and adversity and is therefore probably not directly relevant to parents who would read a book like this. The second half focuses mainly on how to help children succeed both academically and in life. He does not propose specific strategies but overall ways of thinking about education. I think everyone who is interested in the welfare of children should read this book.

Helping Children Succeed by Paul Tough

Title: Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why
Author: Paul Tough
Publication Year: 2016
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I read Paul Tough’s original book, How Children Succeed, many years ago. I couldn’t remember exactly what it was about, but I knew I liked it. I decided to check out his followup. Much shorter than his original book, I read this book cover to cover in a couple of hours.

As someone who cares a lot about the welfare of children in society and not just my own kids, I found the first sections on brain development fascinating. Tough very clearly and convincingly describes how disadvantaged kids who lived in poverty and other difficult situations are when it comes to academic settings. He discusses issues such as trauma, neglect, attachment issues, and constant stress. If I were an educator in a classroom setting, I would find this information highly relevant to how I thought about the kids in my class.

By studying what measures are effective at improving the outcomes for these kids facing adversity, there is useful information to be gleaned by anyone interested in the education of any child. For example, several studies show that incentivizing learning is unhelpful and maybe even counter-productive. In another study, students performance improved significantly when teachers put a post-it note on their paper saying, “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them,” instead of, “I’m giving you these comments so that you’ll have feedback.”

There are other chapters that promote self-directed, project-based learning, open-ended discussions, and child autonomy. These are all key parts of the homeschooling philosophy I use with my own children, so it was nice to learn about supporting evidence.

I’m not sure how relevant this book would be to the average parent. However, if you care a lot about the welfare of children as a whole or are a homeschooling parent looking for strategies, I highly recommend this book.

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