Last night as I lay down with my 2-year-old to fall asleep, I whispered to him, as I always do, “Good night. I love you.” Instead of the simple, “G’night” he normally whispers in reply, he launched into a string of good nights, “G’night, Mama. G’night, Daddy. G’night, Brother [he calls his brother “Brother” as he has trouble pronouncing his name]. G’night, Me [to himself]. G’night, Gnomebaby [to his lovey]. G’night, Owl.”
As he went though this simple litany of good nights, for those present – Gnomebaby, Owl, and me – and for those in other parts of the house – Daddy and Brother, it brought to mind Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon.
Brown’s simple, repetitive text stands as a classic of early childhood reading. I still remember, as a youngster, looking for the “young mouse” on each room page as my grandma read this book to me.
I haven’t read this book with my 2-year-old in a couple of months, a veritable eon in his young life. So the following day we pulled it out, and he thoroughly enjoyed reading through it.
He pointed to each of the objects as the book named the things that reside in the great green room. He counted the three little bears. He told me that mittens go on hands. He’s at the developmental point where his vocabulary is exploding, and hearing the names of these various items proved both meaningful and exciting to him.
When we reached the point in the story where the little bunny begins to say good night to all of the items in his room, my 2-year-old solemnly repeated after each one, “G’night, room. G’night, moon…. G’night, kittens,” finally ending with “G’night, noises.” As I closed the back cover, he asked me to read the book again. And then again. And again. He loved it.
Clement Hurd’s sparse drawings of a room that would now be considered minimalist (though probably normal for 1947 when the book was first published) as well as the limited color palette (which has not been updated since its original publication) pair perfectly with the simple, uncomplicated text.
While the story isn’t riveting, and the repetition may feel dull to most adults, the slow repetitive structure allows young children to predict what’s coming next, to focus on the vocabulary expressed in the story, and to associate the words with the simple drawings that accompany them.
In short, it’s a wonderful little book to read before bed. And perhaps the recurring words will bring a soft focus to everyone’s minds, parent and child alike, allowing us all to slow our minds and prepare for a night of peaceful slumber.
What are your favorite books for calm nighttime reading?