Paul Tough

Writer & Speaker

How Children Succeed

Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence. Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control.

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How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories—and the stories of the children they are trying to help—Tough traces the links between childhood stress and life success. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do—and do not—prepare their children for adulthood. And he provides us with new insights into how to help children growing up in poverty.

Early adversity, scientists have come to understand, not only affects the conditions of children’s lives, it can also alter the physical development of their brains. But innovative thinkers around the country are now using this knowledge to help children overcome the constraints of poverty. With the right support, as Tough’s extraordinary reporting makes clear, children who grow up in the most painful circumstances can go on to achieve amazing things.

This provocative and profoundly hopeful book has the potential to change how we raise our children, how we run our schools, and how we construct our social safety net. It will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.

The following excerpt is from Chapter Three ("How to Think")

1. Sebastian’s Blunder

Sebastian Garcia couldn’t figure out where he’d gone wrong. One minute he was up by a bishop and a pawn, in good position, feeling strong, looking to start off the 2011 National Junior High Chess Championships with a victory. And the next minute he was in deep trouble, his advantage squandered, his king scurrying across the board like a frightened little mouse, fleeing his opponent’s rook. A few moves later, when his defeat was complete, Sebastian limply shook hands with the boy who had beaten him, a sandy-haired kid from a central Ohio suburb, shuffled his way through the cavernous convention-center ballroom where a thousand heads were bowed over chessboards, and slunk back to Union B, the windowless conference room down the hall that was his chess team’s temporary home. Sebastian, a short, stocky, quiet Latino with round cheeks and a thick bristle of black hair, was in the sixth grade at Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn, and two days earlier, along with sixty teammates and a handful of teachers and parents, he had traveled eleven hours in a chartered bus to Columbus, Ohio, for a few days of competitive chess. His weekend was not off to a good start.

The ritual for students on the IS 318 team was that, win or lose, after each game they would come back to the team room for a post-mortem with the school’s chess teacher, Elizabeth Spiegel. Sebastian slouched into Union B and approached the small table where Spiegel, tall and slender, sat behind a chessboard.

“I lost,” he announced.

“Tell me about your game,” Spiegel said. She was in her mid-thirties, dressed all in black, her pale skin made paler by the contrast with her brightly dyed hair, which changed hues somewhat from season to season. For this tournament, she had chosen the deep vermilion of red velvet cake. Sebastian dropped into the chair opposite her and handed her his chess notation book, where he’d scrawled all sixty-five of his moves as well as all of his opponent’s.

The other guy was simply better than him, Sebastian explained. “He had good skills,” he said, a little plaintively. “Good strategies.”

“Well, let’s see,” said Spiegel, and she took the white pieces and started re-creating the game on the board between them, making each of Sebastian’s opponent’s moves while Sebastian, as black, replayed his own moves. Sebastian and the Ohio boy had both begun by bringing out a couple of pawns, and white quickly developed his knights, a standard opening called the Caro-Kann, which they’d gone over in chess class back in Brooklyn dozens of times. And then the Ohio boy had pulled one knight back to an unexpected square, so that both of his knights were attacking a single black pawn. Sebastian, nervous, moved another pawn up to defend, but he had stumbled into a trap. His opponent quickly swooped a knight down to capture the defending pawn, and just four moves into the game, Sebastian was down a piece.

Spiegel stared at Sebastian. “How long did you spend on that move?” she asked.

“Two seconds.”

Spiegel’s face grew cloudy. “We did not bring you here so that you could spend two seconds on a move,” she said, a steely edge in her voice. Sebastian looked down. “Sebastian!” He looked up. “This is pathetic. If you continue to play like this, I’m going to withdraw you from the tournament, and you can just sit here with your head down for the rest of the weekend. Two seconds is not slow enough.” Her voice softened a little. “Look, if you make a mistake, that’s okay. But you do something without even thinking about it? That’s not okay. I’m very, very, very upset to be seeing such a careless and thoughtless game.”

And then as quickly as the storm had arrived, it passed, and Spiegel was back to moving pieces and examining Sebastian’s game. “Nice,” she said as he avoided a pawn capture. “Very clever,” she said when he took his opponent’s knight. They went on like this, move after move, Spiegel praising Sebastian’s good ideas, asking him to come up with alternatives to his less-good ones, and again and again reminding him that he had to slow down. “You were playing in some ways an excellent game,” she told him, “and then once in a while you moved superfast and you did something really stupid. If you can stop doing that, you’re going to do very, very well.”

I first met Spiegel in the winter of 2009, after I read an article in the New York Times about her team’s performance at the National Scholastic K−12 Championship the previous December. The article, by the paper’s chess columnist, Dylan McClain, pointed out that IS 318 was in the federal education department’s Title I program, meaning that more than 60 percent of the students at the school were from low-income families, and yet at the tournament in question, Spiegel’s students had beaten wealthy kids from private schools and magnet schools. I was intrigued, but to be honest, I was also a little skeptical. Hollywood producers and magazine editors love tales of inner-city kids defeating private-school students in chess tournaments, but often, when you look a little more closely at the triumphs, they aren’t quite as inspiring as they originally seemed. Sometimes the tournament that the team from the disadvantaged neighborhood won turns out to be a minor one, or the division that the students were competing in was restricted to students below a certain ability rating. Or the low-income kids turn out to be somehow atypical — they go to a selective school with an entrance exam, or they’re recent immigrants from Asia or Eastern Europe rather than black or Latino kids from families with long poverty histories. In 2005, to give one example, New York magazine ran a long, adulatory profile of the chess team from the Mott Hall School, known as the Dark Knights of Harlem, “a hard-charging bunch of 10-to-12-year-olds from Washington Heights, Inwood, and Harlem” who were competing in a national tournament in Nashville. They did come in second in their division of the sixth-grade tournament, which was a fine achievement—but they were competing in the under-1000 section, meaning they didn’t play anybody with a rating over 1000, which is fairly low. And the students had all had to pass an entrance exam to get into Mott Hall, so they were above average to begin with. Plus the team, while technically from Harlem, had only one black player; almost all the others were immigrants born in Kosovo or Poland or Mexico or Ecuador or China.

And so when I showed up at IS 318 on a January morning, I expected to encounter some comparable asterisk. But I couldn’t find one. The team is diverse —there are a handful of whites and Asians — but most of the players are black or Hispanic, and the best players are African American. Few students on the team, from what I could tell, faced quite the daunting array of disadvantages and obstacles that the average student at Fenger High School in Roseland did, but with 87 percent of IS 318’s students eligible for federal lunch subsidies, the school had come by its Title I designation honestly. IS 318 was in South Williamsburg, near the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant — its most famous graduate was the rapper Jay-Z, who grew up in the nearby Marcy housing project — and the team reflected the student body; the students’ families were mostly from the struggling working class, and the majority of their parents were employed but not college educated.

Over the next two years, I returned often to IS 318 — sitting in on classes, accompanying the team to tournaments and chess clubs around New York City, following their progress on Spiegel’s blog —and all the while, I was trying to figure out how they did it. The blunt reality is that rich kids win chess tournaments — or, more precisely, rich kids plus the cognitive elite who attend selective schools with competitive entrance exams. Take a look at the team winners, by grade, of the 2010 scholastic tournament in Orlando, held a few months before the Columbus tournament that Sebastian Garcia was playing in:

Kindergarten Oak Hall School, a private school in Gainesville, Florida
First grade SciCore Academy, a private school in New Jersey
Second grade Dalton School, a private school in New York City
Third grade Hunter College Elementary, an exam school in New York City
Fourth grade Tie between SciCore Academy and Stuart Hall School for Boys, a Catholic school in New Orleans
Fifth grade Regnart Elementary, a public school in Cupertino, California, home of Apple and dozens of software companies
Ninth grade San Benito Veterans Memorial Academy, in southern Texas, a public school whose student body is mostly Hispanic and low income
Tenth grade Horace Mann, a private school in New York City
Eleventh grade Solomon Schechter, a private school in a New York City suburb
Twelfth grade Bronx Science, an exam school in New York City

The winning team in every grade, in other words — with the exception of those outliers from San Benito — came from a private school, an exam school, a parochial school, or a public school populated by the children of Apple engineers.

Except, that is, for the middle-school grades, where the list of winners looked like this:

Sixth grade IS 318, a low-income public school in Brooklyn
Seventh grade IS 318, a low-income public school in Brooklyn
Eighth grade IS 318, a low-income public school in Brooklyn

The students at IS 318 didn’t win in just one grade; they won in every grade the school was allowed to enter. The roster of schools they beat reads like a wealthy parent’s wish list of the most desirable private schools in the country: Trinity, Collegiate, Spence, Dalton, and Horace Mann in New York City, and exclusive private schools in Boston, Miami, and Greenwich, Connecticut. And the 2010 tournament wasn’t a one-time fluke; IS 318 won in all three grades in 2008 as well. (In 2009, they won in the sixth- and seventh-grade divisions but lost the eighth-grade trophy by half a point.)

In the end, it is a simple truth, no caveats or asterisks required: the chess program at Intermediate School 318 is the best middle-school chess program in the United States, bar none. In fact, it is almost certainly the best scholastic chess program in the country at any grade level. The team’s reputation has grown in recent years, and they have begun to draw good elementary-school players from around the city, which has added to their advantage. But mostly, they win tournaments because of what Elizabeth Spiegel was sitting in Union B doing that April afternoon: taking eleven-year-old kids, like Sebastian Garcia, who know a little chess but not a lot, and turning them, move by painstaking move, into champions.

By the thirty-fifth move in the game Sebastian was replaying with Spiegel, he had recovered completely from his early errors and taken a clear lead. He pushed his queen deep into enemy territory, putting the white king in check. His opponent drew a pawn up to block the black queen’s attack. Sebastian moved his queen two squares ahead: check again. The white king retreated a square, pulling out of the queen’s range.

And then, rather than keeping the pressure on the white king, Sebastian went for the easy score: he captured a white pawn with his queen. Once again, he had missed a looming threat: from the other side of the board, his opponent’s rook stole Sebastian’s bishop, and Sebastian’s advantage started to slip away.

“You took the pawn?” Spiegel asked. “Come on. What’s a better move?”

Sebastian said nothing. “What about check?” Sebastian stared at the board. “Think about it,” Spiegel said. “Remember, when I ask you a question, you don’t have to answer right away. But you do have to be right.” Suddenly a bit of a smile crept onto Sebastian’s face. “I could win the queen,” he said. “Show me,” Spiegel said, and Sebastian made the moves, demonstrating how one more check would have not only saved his bishop but also sent white into a tailspin, forcing the Ohio boy to choose between losing his queen and losing the game.

“This is the thing,” Spiegel said evenly, moving the pieces back to where they were when Sebastian had gone for the easy pawn. “Think back on this moment. When you made this move” — she captured the white pawn, as Sebastian had done — “you lost the game. If you had made this move” —she put the white king in check — “you would have won the game.” She leaned back in her chair, her gaze fixed on Sebastian. “It’s okay if the loss hurts you a little,” she said. “You should feel bad. You’re a talented player, but you have to slow down and think more. Because now you have” — she checked her watch — “four hours until the next game, which means that you have four hours to think about the fact that you got beat by this kid.” She tapped the board. “All because of this one time when you could have slowed down but you didn’t.”

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Q&A with Paul Tough

What made you want to write How Children Succeed?

In 2008, I published my first book, Whatever It Takes, about Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone. I spent five years reporting that book, but when I finished it, I realized I still had a lot of questions about what really happens in childhood. How Children Succeed is an attempt to answer those questions, which for many of us are big and mysterious and central in our lives: Why do certain children succeed while other children fail? Why is it, exactly, that poor children are less likely to succeed, on average, than middle-class children? And most important, what can we all do to steer more kids toward success?

Where did you go to find the answers?

My reporting for this book took me all over the country, from a pediatric clinic in a low-income San Francisco neighborhood to a chess tournament in central Ohio to a wealthy private school in New York City. And what I found as I reported was that there is a new and groundbreaking conversation going on, out of the public eye, about childhood and success and failure. It is very different than the traditional education debate. There are economists working on this, neuroscientists, psychologists, medical doctors. They are often working independently from one another. They don’t always coordinate their efforts. But they’re beginning to find some common ground, and together they’re reaching some interesting and important conclusions.

What’s new?

Until recently, most economists and psychologists believed that the most important factor in a child’s success was his or her IQ. This notion is behind our national obsession with test scores. From preschool-admission tests to the SAT and the ACT – even when we tell ourselves as individuals that these tests don’t matter, as a culture we put great faith in them. All because we believe, on some level, that they measure what matters.

But the scientists whose work I followed for How Children Succeed have identified a very different set of skills that they believe are crucial to success. They include qualities like persistence, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control. Economists call these non-cognitive skills. Psychologists call them personality traits. Neuroscientists sometimes use the term executive functions. The rest of us often sum them up with the word character.

Who are the big thinkers behind these ideas?

The central scholar in this movement is James Heckman, a Nobel prize–winning economist at the University of Chicago. He’s the one who did some of the first work identifying and quantifying these non-cognitive skills. And in recent years he has been working to pull together thinkers from lots of different disciplines — psychologists and economists and neuroscientists and geneticists — to get them to share ideas and find connections between their theories.

The book includes plenty of others doing important research, from Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies self-control and grit; to Michael Meaney, a neuroscientist in Montreal who found a remarkable connection between a mother rat’s licking-and-grooming habits and the future success of her offspring; to Suniya Luthar, a psychology professor at Columbia University who has written about the unique stresses faced by kids who grow up in affluence.

How do these ideas play out in the lives of actual kids?

There’s a lot of science in How Children Succeed, but much of the book is taken up with stories of young people trying to improve their lives, and the teachers and counselors and doctors trying to help them, often using unorthodox methods.

Sometimes these kids are achieving great things: Take James Black Jr., a student who just graduated from Intermediate School 138 in Brooklyn. He grew up in a low-income neighborhood, he has siblings who’ve spent time in prison, and he doesn’t do great on traditional tests of cognitive ability. But he might be the best thirteen-year-old chess player in the country. I followed him for a year, trying to figure out why he’s so successful.

When I started my reporting, I thought what everyone thinks: that chess is the ultimate intellectual activity, a skill inextricable from IQ. But to my surprise, I found that many chess scholars now believe that chess success has more to do with non-cognitive skills than with pure IQ. James’s chess teacher at IS 318 is a woman named Elizabeth Spiegel. She’s a great teacher, and I think what makes her so good is that she’s able to help her students develop their non-cognitive skills to high levels — in James’s case, to very high levels.

A lot of your reporting for this book was in low-income neighborhoods. Overall, what did you learn about kids growing up in poverty?

A lot of what we think we know about the effect of poverty on a child’s development is just plain wrong. It’s certainly indisputable that growing up in poverty is really hard on children. But the conventional wisdom is that the big problem for low-income kids is that they don’t get enough cognitive stimulation early on. In fact, what seems to have more of an effect is the chaotic environments that many low-income kids grow up in and the often stressful relationships they have with the adults around them. That makes a huge difference in how children’s brains develop, and scientists are now able to trace a direct route from those early negative experiences to later problems in school, health, and behavior.

The problem is that science isn’t yet reflected in the way we run our schools and operate our social safety net. And that’s a big part of why so many low-income kids don’t do well in school. We now know better than ever what kind of help they need to succeed in school. But very few schools are equipped to deliver that help.

Many readers were first exposed to your reporting on character through your article in the New York Times Magazine in September 2011, which was titled “What If the Secret to Success Is Failure?” How does failure help us succeed?

That’s an idea that I think was best expressed by Dominic Randolph, the head of the Riverdale Country School, an exclusive private school in the Bronx where they’re now doing some interesting experiments with teaching character. Here’s how he put it: “The idea of building grit and building self-control is that you get that through failure. And in most highly academic environments in the United States, no one fails anything.”

That idea resonated with a lot of readers. I don’t think it’s quite true that failure itself helps us succeed. In fact, repeated failures can be quite devastating to a child’s development. What I think is important on the road to success is learning to deal with failure, to manage adversity. That’s a skill that parents can certainly help their children develop — but so can teachers and coaches and mentors and neighbors and lots of other people.

How did writing this book affect you as a parent?

My wife and I became parents for the first time just as I started reporting this book, and our son Ellington is now three. Those are crucial years in a child’s development, and I spent a lot of them reading papers on the infant brain and studies on attachment and trauma and stress hormones, trying not to get too overwhelmed.

In the end, though, this research had a surprising effect: it made me more relaxed as a parent. When Ellington was born, I was very much caught up in the idea of childhood as a race — the faster a child develops skills, the better he does on tests, the better he’ll do in life. Having done this reporting, I’m less concerned about my son’s reading and counting ability. Don’t get me wrong, I still want him to know that stuff. But I think he’ll get there in time. What I’m more concerned about is his character — or whatever the right synonym is for character when you’re talking about a three-year-old. I want him to be able to get over disappointments, to calm himself down, to keep working at a puzzle even when it’s frustrating, to be good at sharing, to feel loved and confident and full of a sense of belonging. Most important, I want him to be able to deal with failure.

That’s a difficult thing for parents to give their children, since we have deep in our DNA the urge to shield our kids from every kind of trouble. But what we’re finding out now is that in trying to protect our children, we may actually be harming them. By not giving them the chance to learn to manage adversity, to cope with failure, we produce kids who have real problems when they grow up. Overcoming adversity is what produces character. And character, even more than IQ, is what leads to real and lasting success.

Reviews & Praise

“I wish I could take this compact, powerful, clear-eyed, beautifully written book and put it in the hands of every parent, teacher and politician. At its core is a notion that is electrifying in its originality and its optimism: that character—not cognition—is central to success, and that character can be taught. How Children Succeed will change the way you think about children. But more than that: it will fill you with a sense of what could be.”

—Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here

“Nurturing successful kids isn’t a game of chance. There are new, powerful ideas about how to help children thrive, innovations that have transformed schools, homes, and lives. Paul Tough has scoured the science and interviewed the experts, and now he’s written an instruction manual for the rest of us.”

—Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit

“Turning the conventional wisdom about child development on its head, New York Times Magazine editor Tough argues that non-cognitive skills (persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence) are the most critical to success in school and life. … Well-written and bursting with ideas, this will be essential reading for anyone who cares about childhood in America.”

—STARRED Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2012

“In this absorbing and important book, Tough explains why American children from both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum are missing out on these essential experiences. … The book illuminates the extremes of American childhood: for rich kids, a safety net drawn so tight it’s a harness; for poor kids, almost nothing to break their fall.”

—Annie Murphy Paul, The New York Times Book Review, August 23, 2012

“Mr. Tough’s new book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, combines compelling findings in brain research with his own first-hand observations on the front lines of school reform. He argues that the qualities that matter most to children’s success have more to do with character – and that parents and schools can play a powerful role in nurturing the character traits that foster success. His book is an inspiration. It has made me less of a determinist, and more of an optimist.”

—Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail, August 31, 2012

“An engaging book that casts the school reform debate in a provocative new light. … [Tough] introduces us to a wide-ranging cast of characters — economists, psychologists, and neuroscientists among them — whose work yields a compelling new picture of the intersection of poverty and education.”

—Thomas Toch, The Washington Monthly, September/October 2012

“How Children Succeed is a must-read for all educators. It’s a fascinating book that makes it very clear that the conventional wisdom about child development is flat-out wrong.”

School Leadership Briefing Audio Journal [PDF], September 2012

“I loved this book and the stories it told about children who succeed against big odds and the people who help them. … It is well-researched, wonderfully written and thought-provoking.”

—Siobhan Curious, Classroom as Microcosm, September 3, 2012

“How to Succeed takes readers on a high-speed tour of experimental schools and new research, all peppered with anecdotes about disadvantaged youths overcoming the odds, and affluent students meeting enough resistance to develop character strengths.”

—James Sweeney, Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 4, 2012

“[This] wonderfully written new book reveals a school improvement measure in its infancy that has the potential to transform our schools, particularly in low-income neighborhoods.”

—Jay Mathews, Washington Post, September 13, 2012

“Paul Tough’s excellent new book … rises to the top of the parenting book pile for its deep exploration of failure and the ways in which it builds character in our kids.”

—Judy Bolton-Fasman, Huffington Post, September 21, 2012

“Drop the flashcards – grit, character, and curiosity matter even more than cognitive skills. A persuasive wake-up call.”

—People Magazine, September 24, 2012


—David Brooks, The New York Times, September 28, 2012

“Tough writes with compassion and understanding; this is not a handbook; rather it’s an approach to understanding how some students beat long odds and others don’t.”

—Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune, October 1, 2012

“I’m telling you: order immediately. [How Children Succeed] is engrossing, easy to read, full of stories, relevant to teachers and parents, and epiphany-producing.”

—Elena Aguilar, Edutopia, October 4, 2012

“If you’ve ever read Jonathan Kozol’s work, Tough brings a similar ethnographic, journalistic, and humane, middle-class re-awakening to challenges we do not all share. The difference is in how Paul Tough ties together the qualities we humans do all share that drive us to the definition of success created by mainstream middle-class America.”

Sutterblog, October 14, 2012

“Decades of fascinating research is now wonderfully assembled in Paul Tough’s important new book, ‘How Children Succeed.’ Long may this book dwell on the best-seller lists!”

—Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, October 21, 2012

“[Tough] recognizes that government must set an agenda that tackles the terrible conditions in which so many families and children live. Schools alone can’t do it, even with character education programs. And for those reasons, I applaud his new book.”

—Diane Ravitch, Diane Ravitch's Blog, October 23, 2012

“Reading Tough’s new book, ‘How Children Succeed,’ reminded me just why he’s so good. The book is a synthesis of all the latest research on learning, told in well-packaged chapters like ‘How to Think’ and ‘How to Fail (and How Not To).’ I learned so much reading this book and I came away full of hope about how we can make life better for all kinds of kids.”

—Emily Bazelon, Slate, November 27, 2012

“Can [character strengths] be taught? Absolutely, says Tough, and he provides the convincing research and results that bear him out in rich and readable prose. ‘How Children Succeed’ is not just an important book: It is essential.”

Daily Herald (Provo, Utah), December 2, 2012

“Paul Tough’s ‘How Children Succeed’ is an extraordinarily thoughtful book that had a profound impact on me as both a parent and a policy maker. He highlights the need to encourage our kids to stretch themselves, to help them learn to thrive in different environments and to let them fail—which is counterintuitive, but so important. Now my wife, two kids and I sit at the dinner table at night and actually ask each other, ‘What did you fail at today?’ We talk about how to learn from that experience and how to be resilient. Mr. Tough presents a thoughtful strategy to help those children most at risk, and it left me feeling hopeful about the huge difference we can make in the lives of those who have little opportunity.”

—Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2012

“Tough makes the convincing case that it’s not test scores or even raw intelligence that predict who will triumph: It’s grit, curiosity and persistence, all life skills that can be taught. An eye-opener.”

—People Magazine, Top 10 Books of 2012, December 31, 2012

“There is much in this immensely readable book to engage and fascinate.”

—Judith Woods, The Telegraph (London), January 8, 2013

“A fine and provocative book … ambitious and elegantly written.”

The Economist, January 19, 2013

“A vivid and persuasive social polemic, rooted in real children’s lives …. Brilliantly readable.”

The Independent (London), March 6, 2013

“[Tough] offers vivid reported accounts about the struggles of specific children, teachers, and administrators across the spectrum of socioeconomic class.”

Bookforum, June/July/August 2013

“Finally, an ‘up’ book about education. I smiled broadly as I read through Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed. Granted, the book is not an ‘up’ because of the happy stories it tells of how beautifully we’re handling our kids. It does not. But it is sheer joy to have a smart, research-driven path laid out clearly, one that will actually help get kids educated. … Terrific book.”

—Julia Steiny, GoLocalProv, July 3, 2013

“Exceedingly excellent. … Treat yourself to the altogether indispensable ‘How Children Succeed.'”

—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, September 26, 2013

“Tough is among a very small number of reporters who gets complex science right consistently. He takes you through attachment theory, the HPA axis, and executive control functions, all without losing his footing nor prompting glazing in the reader’s eyes.”

—Daniel Willingham, Science and Education Blog, October 29, 2013

“My eyes were opened to a profound message that Paul uses to encourage us to make the world a better place, one child at a time. It’s my favorite book this year; I don’t expect anything will top it.”

—Chris Harden, Trobo Blog, July 17, 2014