Chicago Parent welcomes letters from its readers. In order to publish a letter, we must have the name and phone number of the writer, and the name of the town in which he or she resides. Please send letters to: • Susy Schultz, editor, Chicago Parent, 141 S. Oak Park Ave.,Oak Park, IL 60302 • Or fax them to Susy at (708) 524-8360 • Or e-mail them to sschultz@chicagoparent.com. We may edit letters for space or clarity. We will not divulge the addresses or phone numbers of letter-writers or forward messages to them.

Please tell us: In January, we're thinking about gangs. Do your kids use gang symbols, sing rap songs, wear their pants too low? Do you think it's a problem? How are you handling it? Deadline: Dec. 1. In February, we're lookin' for love among siblings. Are your kids rivals? When did it start? How do you cope with the bickering? Do you have a secret for helping them get along? Deadline: Jan. 5. If we run your response, we'll enter you in a drawing for a family membership to the Chicago Children's Museum. We'll print your first name, the town in which you live and the names and ages of your kids; please provide us with your full address and phone number for verification purposes only. Send all submissions to: Sandi Pedersen, Chicago Parent, 141 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302. E-mail: spedersen@chicagoparent.com; fax: (708) 524-8360. Kids keeping warm In January, send us photos of your kids keeping warm-sipping hot chocolate, sitting by the fire or dressed up in 12 layers. Show us how you ward off the winter winds. Deadline: Dec. 1. In February, we're looking for photos of kids with their lovies. Send us photos of your child cuddling a teddy bear, curled up with a blanket or holding a favorite doll. Deadline: Jan. 5. Send all submissions to: The Gallery c/o Chicago Parent, 141 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302. Provide the first names of everyone in the picture, the children's ages, and the town in which you live. Include a phone number for verification purposes only. Sorry, we can't return photos. Digital photos must be submitted by e-mail: spedersen@chicagoparent.com.

LETTERS We flubbed on Fatoosh I would like to thank you for publishing the cover story entitled "Ramadan, Why Muslim Families Fast." It was very refreshing and encouraging to see that there are still some American media outlets that promote the true understanding of an often maligned religion. Please continue to promote the ideals of tolerance through fair and balanced education and understanding. I would like to add a small note with regards to the recipe for Fatoosh. As a middle eastern food connoisseur, it is important to point out that Fatoosh is a Lebanese dish and not a Pakistani one. Thanks again for your great work. KAREEM ABDEL AZIZ Belle Mead, N.J. Three local kudos I am an avid reader of Chicago Parent. This morning, as I was dropping off my son at his school, something caught my eye, as well as many other parents' eyes: the November cover. I was absolutely delighted by the pleasant surprise. What a wonderful choice it was donning the cover with the picture of this beautiful little girl wearing hijab (head scarf covering). I, as well as many others, grabbed a copy of the magazine and could not help glancing all day at it proudly. Since Sept. 11, Muslims have been too often portrayed in an ugly light by the media. Islam (and Islamic) is often joined with the term terrorism (and terrorists). Also, the intense scrutiny of the government felt by our Muslim community has, many times, left us feeling distressed and unjustly singled out. With the cover of your magazine, and the great articles within, you have brought to a brighter light the innocent, kindly, and lovely picture of Islam that is more true to the majority of our nature. Thank you. FEDA JARAD Niles

I just wanted to commend you for a very well-thought-out, written, balanced article about Ramadan. It truly highlighted the special place children have for Ramadan and was honest in distinctions between religious requirements and cultural celebration associated with the month. I think anyone who reads the article will really come away with a sense of Ramadan from a parent and child's perspective. ZAIN BENGALI Naperville

Thank you for featuring the wonderfully positive article about Ramadan. In a society where it can be really hard to get a voice to reach out to people to let them know there are other holidays that many people celebrate, it was wonderful to see your institution provide a pleasant view. Your magazine reaches a large population, God willing, this population will see that Muslims are not that different from other people. ASMA NIZAMUDDIN Des Plaines Nine national thank yous ... Thank you so much for publishing the article about Ramadan. It is not often Americans get accurate, positive or balanced, easy-to-understand exposure to Islam and Muslims, especially American Muslims who may live in their own communities. It is even more important when people are able to tell their own stories in their own words from their own perspective. They were able to allude to some of the negative ways people may view us or ask questions without it detracting from the article. It is an article readers of any age, or families can enjoy, including Muslim parents looking for ideas on how to make Ramadan fun and introduce fasting to their kids. PAM HEATH Boyds, Md.

As a native Chicagoan and Muslim, I just wanted to thank you for your wonderfully insightful cover story on Ramadan. In a time when mutual understanding is needed all around the world, it warms my heart to see a hometown magazine of mine take the lead in that pursuit. I work for the nation's largest Muslim civil rights/advocacy group in D.C. Your magazine article will now be read around the world. ARSALAN T. IFTIKHAR Director of Legal Affairs Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Washington, D.C. The November cover story was very interesting and shows Ramadan from a Muslim prespective. People all over the world greet this month in various ways, but the purpose is always the same-to please God. I hope to read more pieces like this in the near future in the Chicago Parent. MOAZZARN KHAN Woodhaven, N.Y.

I cannot express the feeling of joy that entered my heart on seeing your recent magazine cover! For too long has Islam been ignored as an American religion, even though there are reports that Muslims now outnumber Jews in America. I thank you with all my heart for doing such a wonderful job. Placing a Muslim girl wearing hijab on the front page speaks so much more than words ever can. The accompanying article was well written-kudos to Kiran Ansari. Please keep up your good work in the spirit of breaking down barriers of misunderstanding and building bridges of unity between the many diverse peoples in these United States. TAARIK Z. RAHAMAN North Miami, Fla.

Thanks for the cover story on Ramadan. This is a great article about some of the traditions of Muslims, which have been in place for 1,400 years. We really appreciate your coverage, and hopefully you will keep up the good work. We appreciate it in a time where people have been attacking Muslims and Islam without even thinking about the marvelous things about such a religion, which has 1.2 billion people KAMAL YASSIN Town and Country, Mo. Thank you for your touching article by Kiran Ansari about Ramadan. It shows the humanistic and moral ethics of Islam. MOHSEN ELEDRISI, M.D. Galveston, Texas

I want to applaud Chicago Parent for Kiran Ansari's article. It treated Ramadan as a wholesome thread of America's cultural fabric. The Muslims of America join the Christians with Christmas and the Jews with Yom Kippur in celebrating faith and family. FAREZ WAHEED Columbus, Ohio

I greatly appreciated reading the coverage of Ramadan in your publication, and hope you continue to enrich readers with features on diversity within local communities. SHUMAISA KHAN Bloomfield, N.J. Thank you for your coverage of Ramadan. A glimpse into a Muslim family's celebration and observation of Ramadan was quite helpful and interesting. Plus the recipes look delicious and worthy of a try! Articles like these help eliminate prejudice and build unity. Thank you! FATIMA JASSIM Champaign, Ill. An international thanks I would like to thank Chicago Parent for the article about Ramadan. I think it is so important for us to learn about others. Ignorance feeds off of misinformed minds. I am in Germany working for the Army and am blessed with a computer so that I can see what is going on in America. I have lived overseas 17 years. As an American Muslim of three years, I love to see bridges between people. That is indeed God's plan for humanity and a truly beautiful miracle. Thanks once again and Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan). May God bless the magazine's staff. HELEN FEIN Germany Kudos, too, on VBAC story As a budding childbirth educator, I was delighted to open your November 2003 issue and find "VBAC: A woman's right to vaginal birth." This is a wonderful article, certain to be of keen interest to expectant VBAC women and couples, and an excellent choice. I am available as a childbirth educator who focuses on VBAC. My home page is www.geocities.com/thepowerofbirth. Thanks again. MARY B. CANTORAL Warrenville A challenge to help kids see I was thinking back to my early days in grammar school and recalled how my classmates treated the kids who had trouble reading. They were teased unmercifully. Today, things are no different. As an optometrist, I now realize that those kids may have simply been unable to focus properly. If things look blurry, and you've never been given the gift of seeing with corrective glasses or contact lenses, then you think fuzzy vision is normal. Across the United States, nearly one in four kids has vision problems, which can impact learning, behavior, social interactions, sports, self-esteem and even contribute to juvenile delinquency. Seven out of 10 juvenile delinquents have vision problems, and vision disorders are the fourth most common disability in the nation. Almost 80 percent of preschool-age children never get an eye exam. Lori A. Lennix, principal of Doolittle East Middle School, told me, "A child that has a hard time seeing often doesn't even realize it. Once able to see, borderline students become good students." Typical screenings detect only a few learning-related visual skills, leaving most undiagnosed. However, when accurately diagnosed, learning-related vision problems can be treated permanently. That is why I have decided to issue a challenge to optometrists and ophthalmologists across the country to give the gift of vision this holiday season. From our Deefield offices, we are giving comprehensive vision exams to 10 students from Doolittle East Middle School. We will be conducting the examinations using a new technology called Optomap, developed by Douglas Anderson after his 5-year-old son lost vision in one eye because of a detached retina that wasn't found with a traditional eye exam. As one of the first in the country to have Optomap, we see the exam also being an educational field trip for the kids as they get to actually see their eyeball and its inner workings on a large computer screen. We will be donating all exams and vision correction items, such as glasses and contacts. If each optometrist and ophthalmologist in the nation follows our lead, close to a half-million children can be helped this holiday season, and this number can grow exponentially as this effort becomes an annual event. S. BARRY EIDEN, OD, FAAO President, North Suburban Vision Consultants Boycott U of C Hospitals Regarding the closing of the midwives' clinic at the University of Chicago Hospitals: It appears what we have here is a failure to communicate. In the overwhelming protests of the last few months, hundreds of women have made it clear they feel passionately about having the choice of a low-intervention childbirth. Dr. Arthur Haney, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has made it clear that he is more interested in the 10 percent to 15 percent higher reimbursement he can collect for those deliveries if they are done by medical residents or attendings. However, these physician-attended deliveries use a very different protocol of care, one which involves far less bed-side attention, more invasive procedures, and most importantly, less autonomy on the part of the laboring woman. Haney has no answer to all the letters he has received asking that the midwives be retained, the public demonstrations and the petition signed by 140 members of the faculty and staff of this university. Somehow despite insurance concerns, Northwestern Hospital manages to have midwives. As do University of Illinois, Weiss Memorial, Mt. Sinai, Illinois Masonic, Evanston, Mercy and Swedish Covenant hospitals. Perhaps it is time for the women of Hyde Park and the South Side to start speaking Haney's language. We should stop talking about the kind of care we need, the choices we deserve. We, too, need to start talking about money. Eighty-five percent reimbursement on a patient is better than zero percent reimbursement when that patient has left for care elsewhere. Women of Chicago, Hyde Park and the University of Chicago community: At the next opportunity, change your medical insurance to one that will allow you to go to a hospital where your priorities are respected. Go to a hospital where there is a midwifery practice. Better yet, remember the names of the award-winning certified nurse-midwives now forced to leave the U of C: Charity Cooper and Pat Schneider. Follow them to their next practice. You will never regret having stood up for women's health care. DINA WEINSTEIN Parent Support Network, Chicago

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