May 2005


New Springfield schedule Cindy Richards and her family recently visited Springfield and shared the fun they had with your readers in the (getaway) April, 2005 issue. Unfortunately, since they arrived on a Sunday, some of the historic sites weren’t open.

I’m happy to announce that after the April opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, all of the Lincoln historic sites will be open daily, except for major holidays. This includes Lincoln’s Home, Depot and Tomb, the Old State Capitol and Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices in Springfield, plus New Salem, which is located near Petersburg. The daily schedule will continue through the Labor Day weekend.

We encourage your readers to visit us and find out just how much is going on in Springfield every day of the week. SHARON JOHNSON Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau www.visit-springfieldillinois.com

Pest provision not preferable Your recent article about new laws that protect children from pesticides (April, 2005) did a great job addressing an issue many parents don’t think about when considering childcare options. I would like to correct one point. An Illinois Department of Public Health representative said the law had no enforcement provision. However, Section 21 of the Illinois Structural Pest Control Act makes violations punishable by a Class A misdemeanor. But Safer Pest Control Project feels the use of this provision may cause undue harm to our learning institutions and instead supports an educational approach for increasing compliance.

Concerned parents can ensure their children’s safety by taking concerns directly to their school principal or center director. Parents can also call their state representative and explain their concern about lack of funding for laws designed to protect children. Most important, reducing pesticide use in your home remains the best way to protect children from unnecessary exposure to toxic chemicals.

We applaud Chicago Parent for encouraging parents to remain vigilant about children’s health and welcome calls and questions from your readers. RACHEL ROSENBERG Executive Director Safer Pest Control Project

The right illustration to use? I am concerned about the illustration used on p. 17 of the March 2005 issue for the article on postpartum depression and psychosis funding. Your publication is read by many new moms. Showing an obviously distressed mother wearing a baby in a sling and nursing sends the message that trying to keep your baby close and breastfeed is so difficult that you can barely make a sandwich.

Despite breastfeeding becoming more common, pictures and illustrations of it are still very rare in publications, even progressive ones like yours. For instance, I have never seen a picture of a woman bottle-feeding and looking depressed—the formula industry makes sure all the pictures and photos of bottle-feeding mothers show well-dressed, perfectly coiffed and smiling women. In addition, while many young women and future moms I talk to are aware of the health benefits of breastfeeding, they are concerned that it is too difficult and will adversely affect their work life, their relationships and their independence. I think this illustration plays into that misconception.

Nothing could be farther from the truth! Breastfeeding and keeping your baby close in a sling or other carrier gives you a free hand for many tasks, while nursing at the same time. It also promotes a content baby, so mom can be well rested, as well as pursue her career, tend to relationships and get out to enjoy the things she did before baby.  I should know. I bring my fourth child (now 4 months old) to work in my law office several days a week, and breastfeeding and sling-ing is invaluable to getting work done and keeping both of us healthy and happy. While the drawing was skillfully done, it portrays a misleading message when used with the postpartum depression article. CARLA DOBROVITS Frankfort

Strap in the car seat I have two children, my son Reese is 2½  and my daughter Kylie is 1. My husband, Rich, and I had only two car seats between us, which were in my car because at the time I didn’t work and my car was the family car. After starting a new job opposite to my husband’s shift, we had to trade the two car seats every day. Rich would take the children to our babysitters and leave the two car seats for me. After work, I would put the car seats back in my car and take my children home. We live only five blocks from the babysitter, so when I put the seats in the car, I wouldn’t strap them in since I was trying to save time.

One day, I took my son shopping. Upon leaving the parking lot and entering a busy street, I got in the turning lane. I did not notice my son playing with the locks and door handles in the back seat and when I turned the corner of the busy intersection, his door flew open and his seat tipped to the side, then caught on the seat belt.

My heart leapt into my throat as it took me a moment to realize I had strapped his car seat in before we left home. All I could think about was: What would have happened if I hadn’t strapped his seat in as I failed to do many times? If the fall didn’t kill him, the car behind me would have.

Now my children’s car seats are always strapped in. No matter how short the drive or how much time can be saved, a child’s life is never worth the risk. I will never make that mistake again and I hope others can learn from my mistake. DONNA M. SHELTON Joliet

Thank you Jay Copp I would like to thank and commend Jay Copp on his (March, 2005) article about the changing scene of youth sports. I was glad the Mullens family and mine were portrayed accurately and positively. However, I would like to clarify one point, the conversation between my son, Billy, and I occurred when Bill was 9 years old. He is currently 14 and playing for the Roos with Brian Mullen. TERRY O’DONNELL Forest Park

Issues in the April edition I usually find the Piepers’ advice sensible, but I differ with some of the Smart Love April, 2005 column. I don’t believe that a 3-year-old has the social maturity—and shouldn’t be hurried in this manner—to be expected to sit through adult conversations over dinner every night. A better approach, since the parents clearly and understandably need to have extended time for their own discussions, would be to save this precious time for after the 3-year-old is asleep. This saves a lot of trouble for everyone concerned.

I also disagree with the co-sleeping comments. Our babies co-slept for about three months, after which we moved them easily to their own mattresses in our room, where they were close by and secure yet had their own space from an early age. When they moved to their own bedrooms around the age of 6, there was no problem whatsoever. Never was there any issue of wanting to “stay in the parental bedroom until adolescence.”

I also was very upset to read about the way Susy Schultz’ son was treated in the White Hen store (From the Editor). If it were me, I would have made more of an issue of this, if not to sue for emotional damages, maybe recommend to the insensitive clerk that she take a child- or adolescent-development class before being allowed to deal with customers. Ms. Schultz’ son was innocent and 12 is still a little boy. There is too much insensitivity and callousness on the part of some adults. Children have the right to dignity and should not be treated like criminals just because the parent is not around at a given time. This type of thing needs to be nipped in the bud before more children are emotionally attacked in this manner. MARY B. CANTORAL Warrenville

Earth Day lessons This year April 22 marked the 35th Anniversary of Earth Day and we continue to focus on the dangers that face our world in terms of the environmental destruction and degradation wreaked upon the planet in order to feed, water, house, cloth and manufacture things for all of humankind. The current levels of population and poverty lead to unbearable pressure on the earth’s resources, which leads us to deplete them at rates that cannot be replenished. What will we leave our children from our world so outstripped and polluted?

Slowing population growth would both reduce the demand on resources and lead to fewer women of reproductive age. This can be accomplished if women around the world who want to control when and if they have children have access to family planning and education. The United Nations estimates that, worldwide, 350 million couples who want to use contraceptives lack access.  Unfortunately, President Bush ignored the causes and consequences of increased population growth when he reinstated the Global Gag Rule that limits access to international family planning, and again, cancelled the country’s scheduled annual $34 million contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that could have prevented nearly two million unwanted pregnancies and approximately 800,000 abortions.

Our planet cannot sustain continued population growth. In order to improve the health and well being of children, women and the planet, we must make sure that every woman can freely decide the size and spacing of her family through access to safe and effective family planning. RICHARD DRESSER Deerfield

Editor’s note: In the March 2005 edition, we ran a Short Stuff from Sharon Damore, assistant professor at DePaul University’s Department of Education, about reforming the culture of standardized tests in our school systems. Several readers asked Damore for practical steps they could take. Here’s her response:

There are Chicago Public Schools that stop teaching valuable skills each spring so they can spend time preparing students to take the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). But there are North Shore schools that don’t spend any time at all prepping students to take standardized tests.

Why? Because so much rides on the results, especially at schools that rely heavily on state and federal money. Unfortunately, test prep is a necessary part of the education of children who don’t have the home environment that supports tons of reading and cultural experiences that result in high test scores.

Recently, I was in Washington D.C. reviewing a high quality charter middle school that will shortly be placed on the failing list according to No Child Left Behind with test results as the final indicator.

Not fair. No where does No Child Left Behind consider the qualities I discovered in the adolescents in the D.C. school: their social/emotional maturity, their sophisticated use of language, their respectful interactions with both adults and peers, their classroom discussion skills and their abilities to articulate the school’s mission and impact on their future.

So what can a parent do? Educate yourself and talk about it.

Start with Jim Popham’s book, Testing! Testing! What Every Parent Should Know About School Tests. It is a great explanation of test design for the layman. Another one of his books is America’s Failing Schools, How Parents and Teachers Can Cope with No Child Left Behind. 

Another issue that must be explored by both educators and parents is, if not tests, what are the measures of our children’s success?

Schools still must be held accountable. Two books, Gerald Bracey’s Put to the Test or Arthur Costa’s Habits of Mind, offer a good place to start researching that question.

I think we can measure what’s important but we have to define it better. We can’t rely solely on standardized tests to measure the quality of the learning that we hold dear for our children. 

You can make your concerns known to your local, state and national politicians.

I like the Center for Education Reform Web site (www.edreform.com), and its Grassroots Action Center. The site offers a template to prepare letters and e-mails to tell our politicians that education needs to be accountable for the quality of learning, but these tests do a very poor job of accomplishing that goal. Sharon Damore


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