Goodnight Moon – A Staple, Every Year

Before children learn to read, first they must hear the words.  It’s developmental, like learning to crawl before learning to walk.  The auditory piece, including singing, hits both the brain and the soul in learning.  In my preschool class, reading aloud is a top priority, so I constantly read picture books and also chapter books.

So, what is it about Goodnight Moon that is a staple every year?  Yes, every single year.  It’s a book for younger children, yet preschoolers are drawn to the rhyming, the objects in the book, and what happens next.  Oh, this is without seeing the illustrations.  I recite this book before chapter reading.  Children hear the words.  That’s it.

Is it the words?  The routine of reciting it before chapter reading?  Or is it the quality of the book?  Did you know the New York Public Library’s children’s librarian hated Goodnight Moon?  Really hated.  The story resurfaced a few years ago:

In celebration of its 125th anniversary, the New York Public Library released its top 10 most-checked-out books of all time. Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day tops the list.  Notably, although the NYPL’s list is dominated by children’s classics, Goodnight Moon does not appear. It gets an honorable mention, with the explanation that “extremely influential New York Public Library children’s librarian Anne Carroll Moore hated Goodnight Moon when it first came out,” so the library failed to acquire it as long as she was there.

Miss Moore’s taste was particular. She loved Beatrix Potter and The Velveteen Rabbit and was a steadfast believer in the role of magic and innocence in children’s storytelling. This put her in opposition to a progressive wave then sweeping children’s literature, inspired by the early childhood research of the Cooperative School for Student Teachers, located on Bank Street in Greenwich Village. The Bank Street School, as it became known, was also a preschool and the teacher training facility where Margaret Wise Brown enrolled in 1935. This progressive wave was exemplified by the Here and Now Story Book, created by Bank Street’s leading light Lucy Sprague Mitchell in 1921. A collection of simple tales set in a city, focusing on skyscrapers and streetcars, it was a rebuttal to Moore’s “once upon a time” taste in children’s lit.

Shame on Miss Moore.  This story reminds me how I need to read everything to young children.  Everything.  Young minds need to be exposed to a plethora of reading.  It also makes me enjoy Goodnight Moon all the more.

Every day before chapter reading I recite Goodnight Moon.  The children love it for two reasons; they know that chapter reading is next, and they feel connected to the words in the book.  I recite the story, all the words, and they have no pictures to see (just like chapter reading.)  Over the course of the year, I have changed the words to incorporate the names of the children.  “And Tommy’s red balloon, and a picture of Sarah jumping over the moon…”.  This has been hugely successful.  The children think it is so much fun, but I realize that there is a bigger connection with the language they are hearing.  I have taken a story they love, recited with no pictures, and changed the text.  That means changing your brain, and children do that so well.

It gets more complicated, or perhaps I should say more simple.  Reciting Goodnight Moon then naturally flowed into singing.  It was already a story with a rhyme, and it already had children’s names as part of the rhyme.  So, I sang Goodnight Moon.  It didn’t matter what the tune was.  The important part was singing, as that brought ‘life’ into the words.  I occasionally changed the ‘beat’ as well, clapping or tapping my foot.

Teachers naturally address visual learners.  Whether it is a classroom chart or writing on the board, the majority of information for children is often visual.  If we address the auditory learners through singing, rhyming, and chanting, we are crystallizing language.  And, it is fun!  So, I now sing poetry, stories and rhymes whenever I can.  The children love it, and it works.  Goodnight Moon is proof.

We are halfway through the school year.  This week I asked the Helper of the Day if s/he wanted to stand with me and recite the book.  That is a big deal!  Harry was excited, and did a great job.  All the children listened to him.  The next day he wanted to recite Goodnight Moon to Gloria:

Never underestimate children.  They have far more heart, gut, passion, and bravery than we realize.  Give children opportunities.  Let them shine.  Read aloud.  They’re our future.  Harry certainly is.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in books, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Gloria, Inspiration, literacy, preschool, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

84 Responses to Goodnight Moon – A Staple, Every Year

  1. Ritu says:

    Precious, Jennie!

  2. Lovely post, and go Harry!

  3. beetleypete says:

    You understand children so much better than Miss Moore. They should consult you about library books instead.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      I would be ready at the helm for that consultation. You know what? I’m going to count the number of children’s books I have. I bet I have a far wider variety of choices than Miss Moore ever had. Best to you, Pete.

  4. barbtaub says:

    Oh wow! Well done Harry.
    (After four children and two grandchildren, I think I’ll be able to recite Good Night Moon on my deathbed.)

  5. Darlene says:

    My daughter loved this book as well. Like Barb, I´m sure I will be able to recite this book forever! Harry is so sweet.

  6. beth says:

    I so agree with this, and love this book for many reasons. our Spanish teacher comes in and reads it to them in Spanish too, as they already know the book and can follow along. they love hearing it in another language

  7. Carla says:

    I love how you share your love of language and literacy with your students and with us. Parents can use all your methods to create lovers of reading. Bravo, Jennie.

  8. Not only great points, but your passion is genuine.

  9. Awww, he and Gloria are so cute!! He did a great job reciting it! It’s a favorite book at my house too.

  10. Jim Borden says:

    how could you not like Goodnight Moon? Love the video; you can tell how much he likes Gloria!

  11. Well done Harry and kind Jennie! 👏🤗🤗

  12. srbottch says:

    GM was a staple in our house. Our kids loved it.

  13. Wow, I wouldn’t imagine a librarian not liking that book, or at least not having it available.
    I probably couldn’t recite the book, but I have read it to even older children than preschoolers, and they enjoyed it very much. It’s a comforting book. I find myself saying good night to the moon and other non-human things.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, wow! It’s hard to imagine the NYC librarian not liking this book. Even worse, it’s hard to imagine a librarian not welcoming all books. I’m glad to know you have read it to older children. Of course they loved it. As you say, it is comforting. I find myself saying goodnight to the moon and many other things, too.

  14. Children’s being denied access to a well-loved book because of one librarian’s personal bias is pretty egregious, particuarly at a time when so many parents depended on the library for their children to access books. That’s way too much power for one person.

    I loved Harry’s recitation to Gloria! He did very well.

    • Jennie says:

      When I first heard this story, my immediate reaction was the same; one person should never have all the power, and for parents the library was the primary source of books for children.

      There’s another piece to this librarian, but my recollection detail is sketchy. She wanted to showcase E.B. White, but he was not interested in her.

      I’m so glad you liked Harry and Gloria!

  15. cathkalcolor says:

    GM was such a well used book in our household. Just like your little sponges my children wore the book out. Just the other day I wanted to purchase another one in hopes that I’ll be sharing it with a grandchild someday? Your including their names in the recitation and the singing are such wonderful ideas and the other language recitation sounds just as good.

    • Jennie says:

      I’m so glad to know you wore the book out. Even if you purchase a new one for future grandchildren, the old one will always be a treasure. Adding the names and singing really ‘cements’ language and makes it a powerful book for children. I hope Margaret Wise Brown would approve. 🙂

  16. Maybe Goodnight Moon didn’t make the “most checked out book” list because everyone owns their own copy! This is always my go-to book for baby showers, and I passed my copy to my daughter. The family heirloom will probably be read someday to my great great great grandchild. Lol. Can you tell I love that book?! Happy halfway mark in the school year, Jennie. 😀

  17. Love of lreading and life-long learning… You pass it along so well, dear Jennie! Thanks!

  18. I loved reading Goodnight Monn to my kids. Such a wonderful book. Thanks, Jennie.

  19. quiall says:

    I love to see children sharing what they know. That is such a foundation for a character building.

  20. Dan Antion says:

    “Never underestimate children.”

    Such good advice.

  21. petespringerauthor says:

    Hard to imagine what could be controversial about Goodnight Moon. You didn’t include the epic Rapper Jennie video. That’s one of my favorites. You enhance the rhythm and make it even more fun for them. You are a treasure, my friend!

    • Jennie says:

      I know, I didn’t include the rapper video. I didn’t want to steal Harry’s thunder. Perhaps a Goodnight Moon Part 2 to show the video? Would that be too much? Thank you, Pete! You are ever-kind, my friend.

    • Jennie says:

      Pete, I added a new post to include Rapper Jennie (giving credit to you) and also reading the book in French (with thanks to Beth). It is just posted. Enjoy the Rap!! 😀

  22. Hi Jennie, this is not a book that I know and that is well known here, but I believe that people should be open minded about books and look at the benefit for the children rather than being shackled by their own thoughts and ideas. A lovely post.

  23. Elizabeth says:

    My favorite is how active Harry is as he recites the book. Imagine the emphasis on “sitting still” that many schools hold dear. Kids need to move and do so automatically when reading and especially when rhyming.

  24. frenchc1955 says:

    Hi Jennie, once again, you have done an excellent and important post!

  25. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Please read this excellent post from Jennie, the extraordinary teacher!

  26. joylennick says:

    Another great post, Jennie. Words are magic! So are some teachers… xx

  27. dgkaye says:

    Jennie, you really should consider putting all your wonderful articles like this in a book for parents. Your book choices and why you choose them, and your methods of teaching the kids are priceless. Hugs xx

  28. Norah says:

    Harry’s gorgeous. He’s just like my grandson when he was that age, except for the colour of his eyes. Always love your work turning children onto words, books and reading, Jennie. Every teacher should do the same.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes he is, Norah. I have said to Harry, “Harry, when I grow up will you marry me?” He smiles, beams, and says yes. Isn’t that wonderful? I’m glad he looks like your grandson back then. That must have made watching the video very special! Thank you, Norah- I will forever champion books and reading aloud, anyway I can with children. I do wish all teachers did, too.

  29. Miss Moore really missed it on Goodnight Moon. It wouldn’t be the classic it is today if kids didn’t love it. I think I would like the book the best with you reading it, or singing it. The color scheme of the illustrations always set my teeth on edge. I once heard an interior designer harshly criticizing the decor.

    • Jennie says:

      She really missed the boat, big time. You can’t make children like something, so if generations of children continue to love this book, that’s the highest testament of all. Thank you for your kind words, and I would love to read or sing the book to you. I wonder what Clement Hurd ever said about the book or his illustrations. I must look that up…

  30. bosssybabe says:

    My favourite!!! 🙂

    What a great little helper! Gloria is slightly terrifying to me hahahaa but so sweet that the children love her! 😀

    • Jennie says:

      Harry did such a great job, and he adores Gloria. She is my diversity puppet, and children look past what she looks like, and see how she is as a person (shy, needs help, silly, fun, loving…) Best to you, Jen!

      • bosssybabe says:

        Such a fantastic way to teach children about being kind and inclusivity! 😀

      • Jennie says:

        Thanks, Jen. When I first got Gloria, over 20 years ago, there were few people of diversity here, so having a puppet that was Black or Asian wouldn’t have meant anything to the children. What they did see was old people or ‘ugly’ people. I needed to make diversity real, and Gloria was just the thing.

  31. Pingback: Goodnight Moon – A Staple, Every Year | widedrebai

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