Mother Goose Day: May 1st

Image of woman in chair and two children
The Only True Mother Goose Melodies c 1843

Purpose: To re-appreciate the old nursery rhymes.

Motto: "Either alone or in sharing, read childhood nursery favorites and feel the warmth of Mother Goose's embrace."

Mother Goose Day was founded in 1987 by Gloria T. Delamar in tandem with the publication of her book, Mother Goose; From Nursery to Literature (MFarland Pub.). The day is now listed in many calendars of events and celebrated throughout the United States. It has been noted by municipalities, a cereal producer, banks, etc. and has a particular appeal to Kindergarten-Primary grades, libraries, and nursing homes.

The preface to The Only True Mother Goose Melodies (1843) showed an illustration of an old crone patting two toddlers on the head. Underneath were the words:

Hear What Ma'am Goose Says!

My dear little blossoms, there are now in this world, and always will be, a great many grannies besides myself, both in petticoats and pantaloons, some a deal younger to be sure; but all monstrous wise, and of my own family name. These old women, who never had a chick nor child of their own, but who always know how to bring up other people's children, will tell you with very long faces, that my enchanting, quieting, soothing volume, my all-sufficient anodyne for cross, peevish, won't-be-comforted little bairns, ought to be laid aside for more learned books, such as they could select and publish. Fudge! I tell you that all their banterings can't deface my beauties, nor their wise pratings equal my wiser prattlings; and all imitators of my refreshing songs might as well write a new Billy Shakespeare as another Mother Goose; we two great poets were born together, and we shall go out of the world together. No, no, my Melodies will never die, While nurses sing or babies cry.

Mother Goose may have started in the nursery, but there is no question that today her works are considered an important aspect of literature. But even more than literary importance—from century to century—from generation to generation—from season to season—from day to day—Mother Goose has been an important part of our lives.

Tips for Celebrating

  • Get several editions of Mother Goose Rhymes and compare how different illustrators have depicted the same characters. Fine artists all have their own ways of illus- trating the rhymes. Of particular note are the following (though some are old editions, reprints are readily available): Randolph Caldecott (most drawn 1880- 1886), Walter Crane (1877 & 1879), Raymond Briggs (1966), Marguerite de Angeli (1954), W. W. Denslow (1901), Roger Duvoisin (1936), Kate Greenaway (1881 & c1990), Lois Lenski (1927), Helen Oxenbury (1975), Maud & Miska Petersham (1945), Alice & Martin Provensen (1976), Peter Spier (1967), Arthur Rackham (1913), Jessie Wilcox Smith (1914), Gustaf Tenggren (1940), Tasha Tudor (1944).

    This can be carried further by having a discussion of opinions on which illustrations best show the characters in the eyes of the particular reader.

  • Have small groups act out skits of different rhymes (with only a few minutes to put together their acts). A variation on this is to give each group the rhyme to act out in pantomime, and have the other groups guess which rhyme is being acted.

  • Another variation on acting out the rhymes is to play traditional Charades, with nursery rhymes as the focus.

  • Search out the Mother Goose rhymes which are set to music and have a Mother Goose Songfest.

  • Seek out Mother Goose Rhymes which have fingerplay actions, and teach them to the children. (The single largest source of fingerplays is Children's Counting-Out Rhymes, Fingerplays, Jump-Rope and Bounce-Ball Chants and Other Rhythms: A Comprehensive English-Language Reference by Gloria T. Delamar (McFarland Pub.)

  • Have participants cook together to make a simple recipe associated with a Mother Goose rhyme. Ie. "Curds and Whey," associated with Little Miss Muffet is an old term for cottage cheese; "Pease Porridge" is thick pea soup. A surprisingly tasty snack is to put pea soup as a spread (directly from the can with no liquid added) on crackers.

  • With the right age group, introduce the "rhythm and patter" of a nursery rhyme for writers to imitate in creating their own verses. Quite aside from Mother Goose Day, this is a useful device for teaching an understanding of the patterns of poetry. This technique has been used with both children and adults.

  • Have a simple line-by-line recitation of rhymes, with participants taking turns giving the next line. Stay with the better-known rhymes so no one will be embarrassed.

  • The most basic way to celebrate is to read aloud from an attractively-illustrated edition of Mother Goose rhymes.

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