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No, this is not a joke or a piece of satire.  No, I did not suddenly
wake from some prophetic dream realizing that a child's graduation from
messy diaper syndrome had some connection with vocabulary, communication
and ultimately literacy, but I'm sure that I have your attention.  

            I'm sure that all the high school librarians that have been
in the saddle for any length of time have been given some challenging
research topic by a student above and beyond the typical capital
punishment, global warming, anorexia, etc. request.  In the process of
pursuing information on such topics and experimenting with different
resources and search terms, you often move into directions that take you
far afield.  This is a story of one such pursuit.

            Toward the end of the school year, a student came with this
request: what is the impact on the children of mothers who work outside
the home, especially in the child's first years?  Do these children have
more difficulties with life in areas such as psychological/physiological
problems, general stress and ultimately performance in school and
delinquency?  It would certainly make rational sense that young children
without a full-time parent would have more difficulty coping with life,
but can you actually prove such a hypothesis.

            I wasn't entirely sure how to begin, but I started using the
term "working mothers" in our magazine database and also for a general
Internet search.  I came across websites for groups that are working for
a greater amount of paid leave and greater flexibility in benefits for
working mothers.  These groups include The Mothers Movement
[], Moms Rising [] and the
National Partnership for Women and Families
[].  The latter website has extensive
information on a variety of issues relating to health care reform, paid
sick days, workplace discrimination and workplace flexibility.

            One article, however, was a major revelation: "Invisible
Citizens" by Sheldon L. Rahn and Hobart A. Burch which appeared in The
Humanist in January 2001.  This was the opening paragraph:

            "Except for the United States and the United Kingdom, paid
parental leave is well established among developed nations, including
Canada and most European countries.  Infant day care, unless it is
conveniently available at the mother's place of work, is not an adequate
substitute for a mother's presence and care of newborns and infants in
the early months.  For working women from middle- and low-income
households, paid maternal and family leave legislation is essential.  At
stake is an effective promotion of mental health and emotional
well-being in the population and the prevention of child behavior
disasters, anxious hyperactivity, delinquency, and crime.  The United
States is behind the curve."  

            Further into the article, there was this direct link to
literacy, vocabulary development and reading:

            "The fact that current national leave legislation in the
United States is unpaid, little used, and only for three months may have
other implications as well.  According to a study reported by Jane Brody
in the August 3, 1999, New York Times, in 1957, 92 percent of all
children were toilet trained by eighteen months (1.5 years).  In 1999,
only 2 percent were toilet trained even by twenty-four months (two
years).  Indeed, she reports that at this point it isn't until
forty-eight months (age four) that as many as 98 percent of all
preschoolers are out of diapers.  Since toilet training and vocabulary
development are closely associated, the relationship of all this to
growing literacy problems and remedial reading budgets in the United
States deserves to be further researched."  

            Although this information is at least 10 years old, I would
imagine that the statistical percentages for age of toilet training
haven't changed any great degree.  

            Our country spends millions of dollars, perhaps billions, on
remedial reading programs.  [Does anyone out there know the actual
amount?].  In keeping with our nation's penchant for dealing with the
effects rather than the cause of so many of society's ills, it would
seem that putting our money into paid family leave programs rather than
trying to correct the damage that occurs in later years, would be a
supremely wise investment.  I would very much enjoy your opinions in
this matter.


Ed Nizalowski, SMS

Newark Valley High School

Newark Valley, NY


"Moreover, our educational system, which demands that we sit in
classrooms for many tedious years reading dull, jargon-filled textbooks,
when our physiology cries out to be in motion, to be active and
energetic and to experience sensorily, so benumbs our creativity and
curiosity - with which we are all born - that it further reinforces our
conditioning to be passive and bored."


Helen Colton "Boredom - New Disease of the Technetronic Era" (1975)


Currently reading Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith








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