Doug Shipman
CEO, National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Book: How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character
Author: Paul Tough

The book from 2012 that I find myself continually referencing is Paul Tough’s “How Children Succeed.” Tough, who previously authored a book on Geoffrey Canada’s work in Harlem, uses his most recent work to describe the latest thinking on success across stages of children’s lives, from infant through adolescence and into the college years. He uses a journalistic approach that highlights recent research discounting the need for natural “intelligence” and instead indicating the need for improving the early environment for kids at home and school and the later need for developing grit and resilience over knowledge and fact gathering.

The book resonated with me on three levels. First, as a new parent, it offered several provocative insights into the type of relationships I should be building with my child and the types of policies that could be adopted to improve early child development. Second, as someone who cares deeply about improving the American education system, Tough pointed to successful programs for reaching economically and developmentally challenged kids through character and “life skill”-oriented programs that have worked across the country. Third, Tough’s book provided great ideas for how my organization and our exhibitions should engage young people in understanding what lessons from social movements they can apply in their own lives.

The importance and inspiration of resilience and toughness reminded me that storytelling is always more compelling than fact sharing.

Sometimes Tough’s insights are counterintuitive, and that’s why they are so memorable. The book has also inspired to me explore more books on education and learning research well into 2013. If you care about children’s development or education policy, “How Children Succeed” is worth a read in 2013 as well.