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Dear Ed
I would be taking this with a grain of salt until some of the 'facts' stated were 
supported by
reliable, responsible and unbiased research.

The first things that I would like to have clarified are Ms Brody's credentials -is 
she a recognised
international expert in child development - and the validity of her statements such 
as " toilet
training and vocabulary development are closely associated".  What is the evidence 
for this and just
what are the connections?  After 36+ years in early childhood, I have known many 
kids who are
articulate and literate and it was more to do with their experiences with language 
and literature
than the age they were toilet-trained.  And in all the reams and reams of reading I 
have done about
early reading behaviours, this is the very first time I have read of this 
connection.  (That doesn't
mean it doesn't exist but Ms Brody needed to state her sources for her claims.)

The next thing I would be looking at are the trends in child-rearing at the time - 
in the late 50s
babies were fed according to a clock not their needs and having a baby out of 
diapers early, whether
they were physically able to control their sphincter muscles or not, was a badge of 
honour. Today
there is a totally different school of thought to then, and even to the 70s when I 
toilet-training my child. And what is 'acceptable' in the US or Australia is quite 
different in
other countries so is this an intellectual or cultural connection?

Thirdly, I would be looking for bias and prejudice and whether there is a very long 
bow being drawn
here to try to add some sort of academic weight to an argument for long-term, 
maternity leave.  Australia has just this year announced that there will be some 
sort of scheme here
to support new mums beyond the six weeks that most have access to, and I thought we 
had been
subjected to every argument for and against but this link that suggests mums have 
to be stay-at-home
in order to toilet train their kids so they won't require remedial reading later is 
a new one.  

Without going into the fact that little ones are not physically mature enough to 
control their
bladders or bowels in the timeframe that most countries support paid maternity 
leave, or that this
might be just another level of emotional guilt about wanting/having to work outside 
the home being
put on new mums, if we look at the Bell Curve we will see that there are always 
going to be about
16% of children who are going to need some sort of support with their literacy 
development and 2% of
these will need long-term support.  In a class of 30 kids, that's 5 needing some 
support and 1
needing long-term support. Conversely, all other things being equal, you will have 
5 at the gifted
end of the spectrum.  

Rather than spending money on trying to prove that long-term paid maternity leave 
will enable
children to be toilet-trained earlier so they will encounter fewer problems with 
literacy later,
perhaps that money would be better spent helping all new mums understand the 
connection between
exposing their children to language and literature and their literacy development 
and then providing
the means for them to do this through some of the excellent early-childhood 
programs that have been
proven to work.  If I were in charge of the purse, I'd be making Mem Fox's book 
"Reading Magic"
compulsory reading as part of the ante-natal preparation and, Marie Clay's (the 
founder of Reading
Recovery)  "Reading, the Patterning of Complex Behaviour" compulsory for all 


Barbara Braxton
Teacher Librarian

Together we learn from each other 

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