A Feature Review of
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character
Reviewed by Joshua Neds-Fox.
With a subtitle like “Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character,” it’s hard not to think that How Children Succeed, Paul Tough’s second book, is being pitched to the politicized market of an election year. The contents, however, are hardly partisan; instead, Tough delivers a highly compassionate exploration of strategies to help impoverished children overcome the limitations of their circumstances. In many ways, this book is a natural followup to Tough’s previous title, “Whatever It Takes,” a profile of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone, the ambitious project Tough first chronicled in the pages of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Canada knew the devastating effects of poverty on personal potential, and he was no longer satisfied to save one in a hundred children from that fate. He wanted to save them all. Whatever It Takes examined Canada’s Herculean effort to cast a net over a handful of city blocks in Harlem, a net so fine that no child in the target zone could possibly slip through. In engineering his project, Canada employed — and Tough explored — a grab bag of scientific and/or data-driven techniques to try to effect change in children.