Author: Chris Van Dusen

5-Year-Olds Poetry/SongsStorybooks

Based loosely on an historic event from the 1800s, this rhyming tale will take your child back in time. It opens with a group of circus animals aboard a ship, a greedy circus owner insisting they continue in a terrible fog, and CRASH: a shipwreck! The pages are filled with natural conversation starters, the illustrations are colorful and the attention to detail is fantastic for boosting oral language and vocabulary skills.

Before, During and After Reading

Oral Language

Look at the front and back cover of the book together. Encourage your child to tell you what she sees. Ask her questions that relate to real experiences she has had that relate to the book. For example, you might talk about a boat ride, a familiar animal, the circus or the ocean.

Sweep under the words as you read the title of the book and the author’s name. Have her make a prediction of what she thinks the book will be about.

Phonological Awareness

Use the pictures to clap and count the syllables in the animal names. You might say:

  • Tell me the name of one of the animals you see on the front cover. Elephant. Listen as I say it slowly: e…le…phant. Can you say it slowly? E…le…phant. This time, let’s tap our feet as we say it slowly, one tap for each part: e…le…phant. We tapped three times because elephant has three syllables.

Read the story to your child from start to finish for the first reading so she can follow the storyline. During future readings, you might include some skill-related activities such as those shown below.  

Phonological Awareness

Focus on alliteration, which is the repetition of beginning sounds of neighboring words. You might say:

  • As I read the story, I hear names and words that begin with the same sound. Listen - ‘Captain Carrington’. Those words both begin with the /k/ sound. Listen - ‘Dottie Dailey’. What sound do you hear first when I say Dottie Dailey? Yes, the /d/ sound!
  • What sound do you hear when I say ‘Fannie Feeney’? You got it! I hear the /f/ sound.
  • Can you tell me a word that starts with the same sound as your name? /m/ /m/ /Marie? Magnificent, magical Marie! How about Marie Monkey!

Oral Language

As you read and come to words that may be unfamiliar to your child, reread the words. Ask your child to tell you what she thinks the author is trying to say. Define the words if needed.

Oral Language

Ask questions that will encourage conversations and recall events from the story. Listen to your child’s answers and allow her to express her thoughts and ideas. Examples of questions can be:

  • Do you think this story was real or made up and why?
  • How do you think…?
  • Why would they…?
  • Where can they be…?
  • Tell me about it.

Letter Knowledge

Peanutty Letters: Buy a bag of roasted peanuts in the shell like the ones sold at a circus. Gather two peanuts for each letter of the alphabet. With a permanent marker, write the uppercase letter on one peanut and the lowercase letter on another. Place the peanuts on a cookie sheet and encourage your child to choose one. Have her look at the letter and tell you the name of the letter, what sound the letter makes, and whether it is an uppercase or lowercase letter. If she chose an uppercase, see if she can find the matching lowercase. If not, just have her choose another peanut and tell you what letter is written on it. While enjoying eating the peanuts together, think of a word related to the circus or an animal that begins with the letter or letter sound.

Don’t want to use peanuts? Try cutting peanut shapes from a brown paper grocery bag or cardboard box. Write an uppercase or lowercase letter in each peanut shape. Play the matching game. As an independent activity, you might ask your child to match all the uppercase and lowercase letters.    

Beginning Writing

Ask your child if she had a favorite character from the story. Encourage her to draw a picture of the character. Have her tell you about what she drew and encourage her to give it an alliterative name. For example:

  • Tommy Tiger
  • Linda Lion
  • Gordon Gorilla

Ask what act her animal could do if it was in the circus.

Go online and look at examples of circus posters. Talk about how they advertise the acts. Encourage your child to draw her own circus poster.

Visit a circus. Compare what your child drew on her poster to the acts she saw at the circus.  

Explore other recommended children's books and reading activities for five-year-olds, or take the Reading BrightStart! Preschool Reading Screener. The screener can help you determine if your child is on the path to reading readiness, and provides a free plan for moving forward.