The beloved children’s book, Goodnight Moon, is now an app. For $4.99, you can purchase the app from iTunes for use on an iPad. Now, you, your children, and your grandchildren don’t have to read Goodnight Moon in the old-fashioned way, holding a book, turning the pages, and so forth. Rather, the app will read the book to you in a soothing female voice with equally soothing background piano music (Robert Schumann’s “Von fremden Ländern und Menschen” from Kinderszenen, Opus 15, 1838; the music plays nonstop, but can be turned off). You can set it up so that the electronic pages turn either automatically or when you swipe them. Alternatively, you can silence the narration and read the book yourself.
The electronic version of Goodnight Moon comes with lots of bells and whistles (literally). You can personalize the introductory page with your signature and photo. You can use a magnifying glass to enlarge a portion of the page. When you touch any word on the page, it is read out loud. Most of the items on any page, when touched, respond somehow by moving and making noise. If, for example, you touch the cow in the picture of the cow jumping over the moon, it moos and jumps. As in the book, there are mice hidden on many pages, but now they are truly out of sight. When you touch the place where a mouse is hiding, it jumps out and you gain a score in the mouse hunt game. If you get all nine mice, you win and earn a sticker.
The homepage of the app shows, in addition to a representation of the book Goodnight Moon, two other books, a Goodnight Moon Alphabet Book and a Goodnight Moon Numbers Book. But, if you select one of these, you discover that you can access them only by paying something extra. I bought the whole set of add-ons for $2.99. The books are interactive ways for young children to learn their letters and numbers.
So, there you have it, an overview of the Goodnight Moon app. What do you think? Is this great news? Terrible news? No big deal at all?
It may not matter to you if you are unfamiliar with Goodnight Moon. However, since, according to the New York Times, 60 million copies of this book have been sold since its release in 1947, chances are you may know this book. Perhaps your parents read it to you when you were young. Perhaps you read it to your children or grandchildren. It was not read to me when I was little, but I did read it to my own children. They loved Goodnight Moon. To be honest, I tolerated it because it was extremely simple, at least on the surface. But that was part of the genius of this bedtime story. Its slow pace with few words and calming illustrations helped my kids fall asleep night after night after night. Millions of parents might not love Goodnight Moon for its story or characters, but they appreciate its soporific impact on their children.
I have several thoughts about the newly appified Goodnight Moon.
First, no surprise here. The form and popularity of Goodnight Moon begged for it to be turned into an app. No doubt children will love this book in a more interactive form. Now they don’t have to sit and listen, growing ever sleepier. Rather, they can make objects jump and squeak. They can compete to earn stickers. They can learn how to read by touching words they don’t know. What once got kids into sleep mode will now keep them awake for hours.
Oh-oh. Maybe that’s not so good, given the previous power of the printed Goodnight Moon to ease children into sleep. The new version of the book is so much more engaging and stimulating that it seems to defeat one of the primary purposes of this bedtime story. Add to this research that suggests that use of glowing screens prior to bed disrupts sleep. The light from computer screens, including iPads, reduces melatonin levels, which makes us less sleepy. What does that portend for an iPad version of Goodnight Moon?
I admitted above that I wasn’t exactly a lover of Goodnight Moon, though I valued its sleep-inducing power. Reading it night after night to my children did get a little tedious. But now, good news for parents! You don’t have to read the book at all. You can simply sit your toddler down with an iPad and Goodnight Moon will read itself to your child with soothing classical music playing in the background. Now you’re home free. No more need to have your child cuddling on your lap. No more need to say the same words over and over. No more need to respond to your child’s questions or enthusiasm. Heck, you don’t even have to be in the room when your child “reads” Goodnight Moon on his or her iPad. What a great app for busy parents who don’t have time to spend with their young children or who don’t want to be bored reading simple books to them.
Somewhere, buried in a box in our attic, is the book version of Goodnight Moon that I read to my children. Though I had thought it might be fun someday to read this same book to my grandchildren, now I have another option. I can save space by getting rid of the original book, knowing that my grandchildren will have their own Goodnight Moon apps on their iPad 23. When they come for a visit, they can use this app whenever they want, without any help from me. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
And sad. And lonely. And disconnected.
I am a big fan of digital media. I own and iPad and and Kindle, not to mention a iPhone and two computers. I use them all regularly. I do probably 90% of my own reading through electronic media. But, I still believe there is a time and place for paper, for tangibility, for relationship, for slowness, yes, even for tedium. So, whether my grandchildren have Goodnight Moon apps or not, I hope that one day they will sit in my lap just like their dad or mom did when they were little. My grandkids will help me hold the book and turn the pages. And I will read Goodnight Moon to them, slowly, patiently, quietly. I will congratulate them when they find the hidden mice drawn on the pages. I will wonder with them about the peculiarities of the illustrations. And I will feel them leaning back into me as they get sleepier and sleepier. Then, I will tuck them in bed and thank God for the old-fashioned book, Goodnight Moon.