Character > Cognition: New book explores what makes children successful

How WINGSLeaders are a bright part of the future

We're always happy to see the mounting research backing our movement, and WINGS cannot get enough of Paul Tough's new book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. Without having actually seen WINGS, Tough still gets WINGS, and the critical need that our mission seeks to fulfill. We could not be more supportive and enthusiastic about the attention he's bringing to character development.

Tough, a writer and broadcaster who's penned several articles on the subject of grit for The New York Times, is also the author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America. He recognizes that the traditional perceived route to success of excelling in academia, is lacking and even unattainable without being coupled and supported by a rich education in social and emotional smarts. Regarding the predictors of success, Tough says, "Absolutely, cognitive skill and IQ make a big difference; vocabulary matters. But the scientists, the economists and neuroscientists and psychologists who I've been studying and writing about are really challenging the idea that IQ that standardized test scores, that those are the most important things in a child's success. I think there's lots of evidence out there now that says that these other strengths, these character strengths, these non-cognitive skills, are at least as important in a child's success and quite possibly more important."

Here's the scoop, taken from a summary off of his website

The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs.

But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control.

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.

WINGS has spent the last 16 years teaching SEL in an after-school program to elementary students in some of the lowest performing schools in our region. Students' academic performance, social connections, self-control and, yes, happiness, improve measurably as they work with our dedicated WINGSLeaders and our proven curriculum.

We've made a promising discovery; what happens AFTER school can be just as powerful - maybe more so - than what happens IN school.

Our own research and experience parallels Tough's findings in his book, and his book continues to reaffirm that our work is vital to the success of children living in poverty. It's character, not cognition that provides the foundation for the ladder to success, and at WINGS we're delivering innovative and engaging curriculum (500+ annual hours) to 600 kids every day. Now that's something!




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