Goodnight Moon is Now an App! What Do You Think?

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 homepage of the Goodnight Moon iPad app.

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.

A magnifying glass allows you to see some part of the page in greater detail.

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.

My personalized version of Goodnight Moon. Rather than putting up my face as it looks today, I used a photo of my climbing on my dad’s leg at just about the age I would have loved Goodnight Moon.

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.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • This weekend at Laity Lodge, I grabbed an old fashioned hard cover book to preview, and found I couldn’t resist underline a phrase (so I bought it).

    There is something important about knowledge that is tangible, committed to a page that won’t change.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure Goodnight Moon app will replace the book any more than PBS replaced NPR. It’s just a different technology.

  • markdroberts

    Thanks for your comment. I wondered what you would think, given your love for the printed (literally) word and for technological possibilities.

  • Jennie

    There’s no reason that you can’t read the Goodnight Moon app the same way you read the original one. After a couple readings, the interactive stuff won’t be so interesting anymore. You have a choice to simply “flip” through the pages the same way you do now. The lasting value of that book is the musical nature of poetry and the way children (and adults, too!) are drawn to the ritual of sound. Already there are a generation of parents reading iPad books to their snuggled up kiddos. Never fear….the children of today (and your grandchildren of tomorrow) will still fall asleep to mittens, to kittens and to the beloved moon.

  • Patricia Smart

    I think it is not an either/or unless parents make it so. It was definitely a favorite read-aloud book when our teens were young, but, even then, we occasionally played the VHS so they viewed it on screen then too. The added dimension of interactivity will have its place and time, in my opinion. Long live the story!

  • markdroberts

    I hope you’re right. I fear, though, that we are shaping our children to need interactivity, thus depriving them of the mental interactivity that comes from using one’s imagination to “see” the cow jumping over the money. By the way, the iPad “book” is much smaller than the real book. I don’t see a way in the app to enlarge it, though perhaps I’ve missed something.

  • Betsy

    Five years ago I would have said, “never!”. Now with a daughter facing a 13 hour plane ride solo with her one year old, I said, “bring on the baby apps.”. For book lovers, hardcovers (and snuggling with your children or grandchildren) will never be replaced. For long plane rides, I’ll take a baby book app, with it’s (silenced) bells and whistles.

  • Don

    Freudian slip there, Mark?

  • Evan

    Part of the ritual of reading a book to my children was, upon reaching the end, saying, “And that’s the end of the story. 1-2-3!” and then slamming the book shut with both hands so that it made a loud noise. This delighted my audience and typically had to be repeated at least once.
    Contrary to what one might naturally think, this was not counterproductive to the sleep-inducing nature of the entire process. The ritual for bedtime was repeated precisely the same way at precisely the same time each night, and the rhythm and the pace of it, coupled with its familiar structure, was what made it work as far as I can tell. If any part of the ritual was omitted, the toddler in question would point it out and demand that it be performed with all due respect.
    We read books quite frequently, and not just at bedtime. I easily read “Puppies Are Like That” twice as many times as Calvin’s dad read “Hamster Huey and Gooey Kablooie.” But the countdown and the slamming of the book were a formal and dare I say, highly prized, part of the process.
    I would not recommend slamming the iPad, hence, I am still reading the analog versions of books to my grandchildren. And slamming them shut. Night-night!

  • markdroberts

    Excellent! Money!