elogo - Exemplary Childrens Literature Project for Scholarly Education
Mother Goose
Petra Mathers
elogo bottom Mother Goose: A Scholarly Exploration
what makes a Mother Goose a Mother Goose?
the nursery rhymes
Mother Goose visual challenges
life and history
zimmerli art museum
emergent literacy
social & political uses of Mother Goose
advertisement and imagery
digitization of early nursery rhyme books
an early Mother Goose play
mother goose online
research pathfinder
external resources

Mother Goose is a staple of American childhood. The verses attributed to this mythical matriarch represent the sheer joy of young children playing with sound, language, rhythm and rhyme. They also introduce young listeners to the characters, simple plots and literary conventions that are entrees into more complex stories and poetry. Thus, Mother Goose shares with all great literature that sense of joy in its experiencing and the potential of learning about life, about oneself and about others in reflecting upon that experience.

Although Mother Goose is most commonly associated with the nursery, her power extends beyond babies and toddlers to many aspects of adult life. Scholars study the literary history of Mother Goose as well as social and historical referents in these nursery rhymes. The instantaneous recognition of characters and events leads to allusions in other literary works, in popular culture, and in advertising. Thus, this website builds on the familiarity, the popularity and the potential of multiple levels of learning inherent in Mother Goose.

The Mother Goose website was created primarily as an educational site for graduate students of children's literature, many of whom are also sharing this literature directly with young children. Although these rhymes are generally acknowledged for their importance as one of the child's earliest literary experiences, they are often ignored in graduate studies of children's literature. Perhaps this occurs because of the assumption that everyone already knows Mother Goose and there is just too much else to be included in such courses.

This body of literature in important in studies of emergent literacy, as one of the first stages in helping the youngest children develop language skills and appreciate and understand, at least intuitively, the rich possibilities of literary experiences. Indeed it is the very richness and enjoyment of such experiences at an early age that help to encourage in children the desire to read on their own. The availability of many pictorial interpretations of Mother Goose rhymes may also be one of a child's first encounters with the visual arts. Looking at many images of a particular rhyme in the illustration galleries reinforces the notion that there is no one right way to interpret a literary work and may even stimulate a child's own imaginative recreation or response. Additional galleries focus on early woodblock illustration of Mother Goose, the work of Roger Duvoisin in the Zimmerli Art Museum Collection and a "Just for Fun Gallery" of interactive activities for all people young and old. Visual Interpretive Analyses shift the focus from multiple images of these rhymes to multiple interpretations of a single image, encouraging viewers to look closely and explore potential meanings.

Older children, in the upper elementary grades and beyond, may return to Mother Goose to explore additional meanings. They might research the historical conjectures and social contexts of the rhymes to discover possible referents to real persons and events. They may also examine categories of the original rhymes such as peddlars' cries, political taunts, tongue twisters, games, and riddles; study more contemporary alternative versions; and then create their own timely Mother Goose rhymes based on what they have learned. For instance, they might listen to television commercials, the chants of child play, or even refrains from video or computer games as a form of modern Mother Goose. Students at this age could also explore the use of Mother Goose to convey cultural values over time, tracing how some of those values have changed as reflected in a timeline of Mother Goose editions.

The Mother Goose site will enable graduate and undergraduate students, scholars, teachers, librarians, parents, caregivers and other interested in these rhymes to explore many facets of this content. A great deal of information is provided and many questions raised to encourage users to look at Mother Goose from a variety of perspectives. Thus, although a number of scholarly literary resources are provided, our basic interest is in the scholarship of teaching, the use of a range of resources to enable students, from preschoolers to post-graduates, to participate in their own meaning making process. To this end, some users may just enjoy the changes in versions and variants over time while others engage in research into literary or social or historical scholarship beginning from the sampling of materials in the various bibliographies. Part of the value of this site is the research team's selection of representative rhymes and presentation of various foci from which to pursue personal interests in teaching, learning and research.

Although Mother Goose crosses national and cultural boundaries, we have not, at this time, attempted to include international editions and issues in this site. We leave this for another time or another team of developers.

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Supported in part by a grant from the Pilot Projects Program of the Rutgers Information Sciences Council (ISC)

Principal Investigator: Kay E. Vandergrift, Professor Emerita

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