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With the holiday season just around the corner—and a year for the history books coming to a close—to embolden your spirits and buoy your hopes for 2021, I would like to give you the gift of this book recommendation, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

As a reading and spelling tutor, this book gave me a new appreciation of the joys of learning and guided me in helping my dyslexic students discover and acknowledge their own efforts in learning to read, write and spell.  PS: a big thank you to Leigha Brigham, The Open Door’s Director of Education and Training for suggesting I review this book!

When do you feel smart? When you’re Flawless or Learning?

After years of research, Dweck, a Sanford University Ph.D. psychologist, discovered that an individual’s mindset can profoundly affect how they think about their own abilities and talents and significantly impact their success in life; at school, at work, in sports and in the arts.

People with a Fixed Mindset think their abilities and skills are fixed—carved in stone and unchangeable. As a result, they are less likely to take on challenges for fear of failure.

Individuals with a Growth Mindset however, believe that their abilities can be developed and nurtured. Instead of seeing failure as a negative, they dive right into challenges and use setbacks as learning opportunities.  They enjoy the challenge of learning—rather than trying to show how smart are.  With time and effort they believe they can improve their abilities and talents. Instead of saying, “I can’t do that,” they tell themselves, “I can’t do that…YET.”

[See children’s book by Esther Pia Cordova]

Early on in her studies, Dweck discovered that some children in her research groups appeared to know that their intellectual abilities could be cultivated. Rather than being discouraged by failure while attempting difficult puzzles or games, these children gleefully took on the challenges. They saw the challenges as learning and growth opportunities—not tests of whether they would pass or fail, win or lose and risk looking “dumb.”

Praise your children’s efforts to teach them how to love challenges and be intrigued by mistakes

A by-product of Dweck’s research revealed that children who were praised for their efforts in learning, were more likely to take on even more difficult challenges.

“Yes, children love praise.  And especially love praise for their intelligence and talent,” writes Dweck. “It gives them a boost—but only for a moment. The minute they hit a snag, their confidence goes out the window and their motivation hits rock bottom. If success means they’re smart, then failure means they’re dumb. That’s the Fixed Mindset.”

Rather, Dweck suggests we praise children for what they have accomplished by their own doing through practice, study, persistence and good strategies.

How a Growth Mindset can play a role in helping a dyslexic child learn to read

In the Growth Mindset, the belief is that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies and help from others.

I see the strategy element as very important component in teaching a dyslexic child how to read. Finding the most effective reading-teaching method and help from others, such as individual one-on-one tutoring, can make all the difference for a dyslexic child to find learning strategies that work for them. From my experience, this is particularly true if the child has already told themselves, “I can’t read” and developed a Fixed Mindset and limited view of their learning abilities and level of intelligence. With one-on-one help, targeted reading strategies, and an encouraging atmosphere, I have personally seen a very resistant reader with a Fixed Mindset become a hard-working and purposefully engaged student. The process takes time. By acknowledging the student’s efforts and exploring how they became a better reader, the student can take pride in their hard work and stimulated to take on challenges in other learning environments.


Overall, I found the information and nuggets of wisdom in this book to be very helpful to me as a tutor. I found the content somewhat repetitive and the writing style rhetorical and dry on occasion.  If you’re a parent or educator of a dyslexic child, I highly recommend zeroing in on Chapters 1 (Mindsets), 2 (Inside the Mindsets), 3 (The truth about ability and accomplishment) and 7 (Parents, teachers and coaches; where do mindsets come from?).

As Dweck herself says, “Mindset reveals how parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment.”

For more Growth Mindset activities to explore with your children over the holidays—and perhaps tune into a new Mindset for 2021—check out these ideas:

Growth Mindset Activities For Kids: 55 Exercises To Embrace Learning And Overcome Challenges By Esther Pia Cordova

I can’t do that YET by Esther Pia Cordova

Growth Mindset: Bulletin Board by Scholastic

Other previous Open Door book review blog posts you may find helpful are:


Marion May is the Blog Curator and Content Writer for The Open Door blog as well as a reading and spelling tutor for The Open Door, tutoring children between the ages of seven and 10. Her blog content is “local, organic and specific” and is relevant for parents of children with dyslexia.

Marion formerly tutored teenaged students in a literacy remediation program at Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School in Ottawa. She also worked as a paid fundraiser and grant proposal writer for The Excellence in Literacy Foundation, a national non-profit aimed at helping marginalized youth. She began her career in radio broadcasting and news writing and has worked in the area of promotional writing for several federal government departments and agencies, including the National Research Council.


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