– contributed by Rhonda Rinehart
This month’s selection is by Rhonda Rinehart, Manager of Special Collections.
BOOK: Better Living Booklets for Parents and Teachers: Junior Life Adjustment Booklets/Life Adjustment Booklets, Published by Science Research Associates, Inc./Grolier, New York
Among CHP’s thousands of books, you will find tucked between larger, more prominent volumes, a smattering of thin, nearly undetectable booklets on parenting and child development. Written by various authors for the Better Living Booklets series produced by the Science Research Associates, Inc. throughout the 1940s and 1950s, these booklets focus mainly on advising adults and caregivers on helping children adjust to the many social situations they will encounter on the road to adulthood. Many more were also written specifically for children and adolescents to help them understand feelings they may be experiencing as they grow up and preparing them for decisions they will need to make as they adjust to becoming adults. And still a few were written with the idea of helping adults understand themselves and their life situations. Authors include child psychologist Mary Louise Northway; children’s author Doris Gates; essayist Sidonie M. Gruenberg; education specialist Ruth Strang; and novelist Hilda Sidney Krech.
As tools for comparison, these booklets offer a wealth of ideas and attitudes that can help us place psychology within its historical context. Although many of the ideas portrayed in these booklets would certainly be considered outmoded, all of the topics are still relevant today. Learning, development, feelings and emotions, relationships, and social issues are all topics that are discussed and written about today. How we have come to understand these topics culturally, socially and professionally, is very different from attitudes in the 1940s and ‘50s.
The historical context in which these booklets were written places them firmly within an era that was beginning to see changes that would guide movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Sex and gender roles, both common topics of these booklets, were steeped in traditional thinking about men and women, but the fact that these subjects were beginning to be discussed at all rather than the common practice of hiding them away indicates changing attitudes about these often-considered taboo subjects.
Not every idea presented in this series is completely outmoded or naive, however. Consider modern views about popularity, managing money, and educational testing and it could be argued that though our culture and society have changed in attitude about these topics, is it necessarily an improved, advanced or “better” one?
As with any of the materials at the CHP, studying these booklets can allow us to see where we’ve been, compare where we are now and hopefully help us learn for the future.
The entire catalog list of Better Living Booklets titles available at the CHP can be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/mguwwgx