The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter at the New York Public Library

On this glorious Saturday, I had the afternoon free, and what better way to spend it than at the New York Public Library?


The ABC of It exhibit draws from 250 items in the New York Public Library collection, spanning a period of 300 years, as it shows us in a particularly powerful way “Why Children’s Books Matter.”

abc of it

It looks at some of the earliest books for children, including the New England-Primer, first published in 1690, to Aesop’s Fables and selections from Songs of Innocence by William Blake, as it works its way to the present day.


The New England-Primer

Of particular interest to me was how the development of child psychology in 1900 helped inspire progressive educators, such as Lucy Sprague Mitchell at the Bank Street School, and writers, such as Margaret Wise Brown, Maurice Sendak and Crockett Johnson, to write “stories about the world [preschoolers] knew, as well as books that invited their playful, collaborative participation.” (Source: Exhibit Poster, The Work of Play: The Progressive Child.)


During my tour, the guide mentioned that Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, first published in 1947, was not included New York Public Library’s collection until 1972 because it was not considered literature. Isn’t that unbelievable?


The exhibit delved into topics of censorship, the influence of children’s literature on film, theatre and merchandising, the artistry of the picture book, and the exhibit concluded with a look at New York stories.



The New York Public Library offers free 45-minute tours. For information about tours and the exhibit, please click here.



On my tour, we had a lovely 10 month old, Abigail. Although she didn’t say much about the exhibit, she grabbed a copy of Goodnight Moon and started to chew on the book. I’m assuming that was her way of saying she liked it.


I highly recommend the exhibit. The exhibit runs through Sunday, September 7, 2014.




26 comments on “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter at the New York Public Library

  1. Great exhibit. Thanks for sharing the photos for those of us who can’t be there. That’s neat they start w/the NE Primer.

  2. What a lovely exhibit! Yes, children’s literature is VERY important! Children’s librarians are very important, too, to steer each child to a book just right for her. It’s unfortunate that they are becoming an endangered species.

  3. I took my daughter to see this in the fall. It’s a wonderfully designed, engaging exhibit. My daughter’s favorite part: climbing through the “Goodnight, Moon” window and warming her hands before the imaginary “Goodnight, Moon” fire. Glas you got to see it too! I recommend for any and all who happen to be in NYC in the near future. Great post!

  4. You WENT! 😀 Yay! You know, I loved the whole thing, but I think the thing I got the most excited about (well, a LOT of it) was when I saw the John Newbery “first book” for children! I’ve pre-written a blog post for my blog (once it’s up) about John Newbery, so had done some research and saw images of the book. Seeing it in person really gave me a thrill 🙂 And, of course, the real stuffed animals in “Winnie the Pooh.” Oh, there was so much 😀 SO glad you went 😀

    • Donna, I didn’t realize you had a blog. I just signed up! Can’t wait to read your post. It was very special seeing Winnie the Pooh. Thanks so much for mentioning the exhibit. 🙂

      • Robin, what made you realize I had a blog? It’s not officially launched yet, but today there’s been a lot of activity on the only page that IS up since I won’t post new pages ’til I actually AM up and running lol I’m guessing you follow Susanna Leonard Hill? 😀

      • Donna, You mentioned you were working on the Newberry blogpost. So, I assumed you had a blog and just searched for writersideup. And I am one of Susanna’s blog groupies. 🙂

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