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Book Buzz: How Children Succeed, The God Who Weeps

By Laura Wadley - Correspondent - | Dec 2, 2012
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"How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character," by Paul Tough.

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"The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life," by Terryl Givens and Fiona Givens.

’How Children Succeed'

Paul Tough is well named to take on the puzzles of the achievement gap and how to give desperately poor children the same opportunities as their better-off peers. In his new book, “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” Tough presents recent and compelling research that suggests that it is the stress of a poor childhood — not enough food, insufficient health care, neighborhood shootings and gang activity — that predispose children to fail in school and in life, rather than lack of educational aid and opportunity alone.

Such children experience actual changes in brain chemistry that can ruin their lives both physically and emotionally. Children who are nurtured by attentive parents even when those parents can’t give them the advantages of a rich educational environment can still succeed because they feel safe and protected.

On the other hand, “very poor children” who live in a “home and a community that create high levels of stress [absent] the secure relationship with a caregiver that would allow a child to manage that stress” are essentially doomed unless as a society we step up to help. As it turns out, children most likely to succeed are those who are taught, at home or abroad, how to be conscientious, resilient, optimistic, curious, resilient, and persevering.

Can these things 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. 

’The God Who Weeps'

Members of the LDS Church and interested others will find much to ponder in Terryl and Fiona Givens’s “The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life.”

Drawing upon a vast knowledge of world religious belief, philosophy, literature and scripture, the Givens proclaim their faith in a god who has a “heart that beats in sympathy with human hearts, feeling our joy and sorrowing over our pain,” and who, in Enoch’s vision recorded in the Pearl of Great Price, weeps for the sorrows and sins of his children, and yearns constantly after them.

The Givens compare Mormon doctrine with other theologies and with the independent beliefs of clerics, poets, and philosophers.

Perhaps in order not to interrupt narrative flow, notes are not numbered either in the text or in the end matter, so matching quotations with sources requires a nimble forefinger and a quick eye. Still, “The God Who Weeps” is a beautiful, thoughtful book for members of the LDS Church and for anyone wishing to understand its theology better.

Laura Wadley is a librarian with the Provo City Library. Email her at lauraw@provo.lib.ut.us.

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