Tuesday, January 22, 2013


When talking about managing failure, it would be wrong not to mention motivation. Failure in reading can be devastating, especially because reading is such a huge part of everyday functioning, and struggling readers are likely to be reminded of failure at nearly every turn, in almost every class at school, and in many workplace situations. How many children, or adults, even, have a hard time motivating themselves to try when they are met with failure, especially in reading? The research and insights into motivation that HCS discusses are enlightening. Tests given with and without extra motivation (bribes, rewards, etc.) show how powerful character is by showing something very interesting: that the low stakes/low reward tests are the best indicators of how well children do later on in life, "They may not have been low in IQ, but they were low in whatever quality it is that makes a person try hard on an IQ test without any obvious incentive" (69).

This goes hand in hand with conscientiousness--a quality that best predicts workplace success and truly, "success across the lifespan" (71). I liked that conscientiousness was described as a "go-getter" quality. But how could you help someone become a go-getter? I found that many poor readers don't have this motivation or conscientiousness and have a hard time because of that. You get better at reading by reading, so how are they going to do that if they aren't motivated or inclined to do so by an innate push (conscientiousness)? Perhaps, I think, this goes back to managing failure--overcoming the obstacles and focusing on the successes can help to motivate. Additionally, finding books that struggling readers can have success with--these are books that are very interesting and not to difficult to read--can serve as that spark to fire up the motivation and go-getter engines when it comes to reading. I wish that HCS could have discussed more case studies where conscientiousness and motivation was involved, because it plays a part in literacy.

From the beginning, one of the main ideas of this book concerns the part that parents play in a child's success. Studies in neuroscience, brain functioning, and stress physiology show that parents who respond to children's needs/stress have children who are "more independent and intrepid" (33).This of course leads to attachment theory and shows how that helps kids develop more of these things: curiosity, self-reliance, calm, ablility to deal with obstacles, assertiveness, and a resilience in the face of stress (37). This idea of parental involvement can likewise be seen in reading. Parents and caregivers who read with their children from a young age, and who are also seen reading by their children, will have successful readers. However, just as Tough explores how important this parental involvement is in a child's development of these qualities, he also does not fail to emphasize, through numerous case studies, how these qualities can be developed later on in life-- especially during the teenage years. Just like reading. Just because a struggling reader has reached their teenage years, it doesn't mean that they can't still benefit enormously from some reading help.

The how and where of that help is also addressed in HCS. The research that Tough discusses shows that the most capacity for change--and having change be effective--happens at home or within the family structure (43). That can be hard for teachers because not much of anything can be done to change those things. But the door isn't completely shut: "executive functions" can and must be improved over providing "cognitive interventions". Cognitive interventions have less of an effect on later success anyway, while executive functions (meaning emotional, psychological, and neurological pathways) are things that can be changed at home and at school, or in a sports team setting, and many other places where learning takes place .

Bottom line of this book: character matters, as it is developed in childhood and even later in the teenage years. What this means for literacy: struggling readers always have a chance, and character improvement will also directly benefit reading abilities.

What did you think of this book? 

See part 1 of the series here

No comments:

Post a Comment