Parents' almanac places information at your fingertips


August 07, 1994|By Susan Hipsley | Susan Hipsley,Special to The Sun

A person is never busier than during child-rearing years.

So say the authorities -- including John Robinson, director of the Americans' Use of Time Project at the University of Maryland -- and so say the legion of parents careening through this frantic time in their lives.

Perhaps at no other time do parents need more information to help with the task at hand. As one veteran mother says, "My kids didn't come with an instruction manual."

Beth DeFrancis has compiled a book that answers parents' questions, and also serves as a resource guide. "The Parents' Resource Almanac" (Bob Adams Publishing, $15) is 741 pages of entries that tell parents "where to write, who to call, what to buy and how to find out everything you need to know about" topics ranging from adoption to gender differences to work and child-care options. "My publisher got up to 7,000 [entries] and stopped counting," says Ms. DeFrancis.

The 34-year-old Arlington, Va., mother of children ages 2 and 6, got the idea for the book when she went to a bookstore looking for information to help her raise her son. "It was overwhelming," she recalls. "There were 27 books just on what to name your baby." While the shelves were packed with books addressing various parenting needs, "it was hard to determine if the information was reliable or the best I could find."

So Ms. DeFrancis, who has a degree in English and is a "compulsive collector of information," started bundling her kids off to bookstores and libraries, culling books, magazines, newspapers and government publications to provide parents with a "best of" guide. It took her two years to gather the sources and one year to compile it all, working after her children went to bed at night and during nap times. "I had no child care," she says, so she knows first-hand how difficult it is for parents to spend time finding out what they want and need to know.

Says Diana Huss Green, founder of Parents' Choice Foundation and editor of Parents' Choice magazine, "Never has it been more difficult to make the right choices for your family. Parents have to make innumerable decisions about everything from nursery schools to computers." She says making those choices is daunting because most parents feel they don't have sufficient ,, information to do it well. "Something like this book is a sensible resource for parents."

Bob Adams, publisher of the book and father of two young children, says it wasn't hard to sell him on the concept. "The book has resources you may not know are out there." For example, he says, busy, budget-conscious parents can have all kinds of information sent to them or ask questions of experts by using the 800 numbers found throughout the almanac.

Or, say a youngster wants to find a pen pal in Nepal. Pages 389 and 390 contain 14 entries for pen-pal organizations. Or the family is traveling in the car on vacation. Consult pages 518-530 for the 1994 children's radio directory. Or perhaps both parents work, but would still like to be active in their children's school. Just order "The Busy Parent's Guide to Involvement in Education," a free booklet published by the PTA.

Dieting while breast feeding, how to calm children's fears, how hTC to deal with the school bully, the address and phone number for the maker of the expensive crib sheets that fell apart after two washings, free things kids can send away for, a list of child advocacy groups -- all these topics are addressed in the almanac.

Its one drawback, however, is locating some of that information. Understandably, the index is selective, given the number of entries and multitude of topics that require cross referencing, but a more thorough index would have been of great service. But the breakdown of chapters -- 27 in all -- into broad topics helps somewhat.

That's an admittedly small quibble for the wealth of information and time-saving legwork Ms. DeFrancis has provided for parents.


Have you developed a time-saving technique you think could help others? We'd like to hear about it. Next month, we'll begin a series of periodic Time Saver columns that will share reader tips so we can offer some solutions to your professional, home or leisure time-management problems. Please leave your name, city residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.

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