I have been a fan of Peggy Rathmann’s “Goodnight Gorilla” since the very first time I read it. The cool thing about this popular book is that there aren’t very many words at all! This style of book really allows us to use our imagination about how to use this book with our kids. Here are a few suggestions about how you can read “Goodnight Gorilla” with your little one.
Describe the picture: Just because there aren’t words on the page, doesn’t mean that you have to quickly move to the next page once you’ve read all the words. Tell your kiddo what you see in the pictures and point while you are talking. I see a monkey! Look- there’s a mouse holding a banana! Don’t be shy to ask them “what do you see?” They may point, babble, use a word, or maybe they may try to move onto the next page instead of answering (that’s ok too!)
Animal sounds: On every page, point to the different animals and say the animal sound. If you don’t know the sound the animal makes, make it up! The hyena might laugh, the giraffe may stick out its tongue, the armadillo could make a silly “me-me-me” sound. Whatever silly sound you can think of, that works. It is more important that your kid learns to copy you than says the correct animal sound during this activity.
Where’s the banana?: On every single page, a mouse is holding a banana. Make it a game to find the banana. You also can search for the moon in this book, but I will warn you that the moon isn’t on every single page of the book.
Pet the animals: This is a great way to get your kiddo to interact with the book. First “pet” the gorilla on the first page (i.e., stroke the picture like you are petting the animal). You can also say “aww” while you are petting the animal. Then ask your kid to pet the gorilla. Then go through the whole book petting the different animals. If your little one really likes this, you can turn it into a listening game by telling them which animal to pet when there are multiple animals (e.g., “pet the mouse!”)
Actions: We often talk about objects or colors we see in photos, but don’t forget to talk about action words during book reading time. Talk about what you see the animals and people doing in the pictures. Look! The monkey is opening the cage! The man is walking home! The monkey is sleeping!
Include other goofy sounds: Incorporating goofy and silly sounds can be an amazing way to get your kiddo interested in the story. Maybe every time the monkey opens another cage, you point to it and say “uhoh!” Perhaps when all the animals are crawling into bed, you give a long dramatic yawn. When the wife discovers the animals, you can put your hands on your cheeks and let out a big gasp. Before you even start the book, the monkey is putting his finger to his lips and so you might say “ssssh”!
There are so many ways to read the “Goodnight Gorilla” book. Don’t feel pressured to choose one method and stick with it forever. You can focus on animal sounds one day and then search for the banana the next.