Saturday, July 11, 2009

Reading the way to sleep

Goodnight Moon- Margaret Wise Brown
Time for Bed- Mem Fox

Our family has become big believers in bedtime routine. We got onto a bedtime routine in Big Bro's youth, when he wasn't a big fan of sleeping. Thankfully he is now a bit more appreciative of the "gift of sleep", yet we stick to our routine like limpets to a rock. Like the childrearing experts suggest, we do dinner-bath-quiet time-stories-bed. Although that is just the bare bones: Big Bro now has many steps between stories and bed: finish stories, have a drink of water, turn on quiet music, sing two songs, look at the family photo......... Our stories run to a program, too: generally 3 mainstream books, then one of a selection of bedtime literature to conclude. Though these days we appear to have settled on Goodnight Moon as our final story. We love it so much that we even have two copies (regular hardback and the large board book "lap" edition), allowing Big Bro to read one while a parent can read the other.

Goodnight Moon is the description of a bunny-child's room as he settles to sleep, bidding goodnight to his surrounds. The language is repetitive and rhythmic, winding down to a gentle finale that has all of us yawning:
goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.
Clement Hurd's illustrations alternate between detailed spreads of "the great green room" and individual items. The latter make for good toddler prompts as Big Bro reads/recites to us. As the book - and as the room's clocks- progress we see the bunny and his surrounds gradually drifting towards sleep: the light dims, the kittens curl up to sleep, the moon rises. Whilst turning the pages of Goodnight Moon hundreds of times (or more?) I've noticed small details: the copy of Goodnight Moon on the bedside table, the wall picture taken from the illustration of another Margaret Wise Brown book.

When Little Bro came into our lives I was keen to instill a bedtime routine on him, too. Feeling like a change from Goodnight Moon, I selected Time for Bed for his storytime finale. Before Little Bro was old (and alert) enough to have a formal storytime before bed I would recite Mem Fox's quiet rhyming couplets before tucking him in, but for many months now, Time for Bed has been appreciated by Little Bro in its full published glory. Its soft, repetitive rhyme pairs with the most beautiful illustrations of animal parent-child pairs settling down to sleep. Little Bro certainly understands what the opening of Time for Bed means, resting back against me and rubbing his eyes as I start,
It's time for bed, little mouse, little mouse,
Darkness is falling all over the house....
I do have one minor criticism of Time for Bed; you may well feel that this is political correctness gone to far, but I point it out because two friends independently commented on it too. The book climaxes (quietly) with a bedtime scene where a girl is being tucked into bed by her mother, who is very prominently wearing a wedding ring. Perhaps it's nothing, but my (married) friends and I agreed that it was unnecessary to perpetuate the stereotype of the married mother putting the child to bed. That being said, I do hope Little Bro and I continue to read Time for Bed for many years to come. And I am sure Big Bro will be spending many more hours in the great green room of Goodnight Moon.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails