Author: Catherine D. Hughes

5-Year-Olds Nonfiction

The National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Animals is an informational book filled with more than 200 photographs and child-friendly facts. Concise text, large print and features like a table of contents, map, glossary and index make this book a good introduction to informational books. Parents and caregivers can use this book as a read-aloud, and children can also enjoy this book on their own. There are many opportunities for learning, and the book includes a page of activities.

Before, During and After Reading

Oral Language

Introduce the book. Read the title of the book, sweeping your finger under the words as you read them. Read the author’s name and explain that the author is the person who wrote this book. Explain that this book is filled with real facts about animals, and it has photographs in it, instead of drawn or painted illustrations. Read the back cover to your child.  

Explain the differences between domesticated and wild animals. Ask your child to identify the type of animal on the front cover. Talk about how the lion cub’s fur looks soft and ask your child if he would pet a lion cub. Use this time to explain the differences between domesticated animals and wild animals.

Ask questions. Ask your child about the illustration on the front cover of the book and the position of the lion cub. Where is the lion cub sitting? If necessary, guide your child to use positional words in his answer. For example, the lion cub is on top of a log or the lion cub is resting on the log.   

Scan the glossary. Scan the glossary on page 126 so you can flip to that page during your read-aloud when you want to share the definition of a vocabulary word. Tell your child that the glossary lists the new words in the book and tells you what they mean.  


Letter Knowledge

Draw attention to text features. Take time to read the titles, subtitles, captions and text features in addition to the regular text. When you are reading, sweep your finger under each word as you read. This will draw your child’s attention to the many text features in this book, as distinct from the pictures. This also helps your child realize that we read from top to bottom and from left to right.  

Draw attention to the glossary. Some of words in this book appear in the glossary. As you read a word that may be new to your child, flip to the glossary and read the definition. With informational books like this one, you have opportunities to make connections by finding related information online and/or in other books – even if you’re in the middle of a page! You may want to expand your child’s visual knowledge by searching online for additional images related to that new vocabulary word.

Phonological Awareness

Play with the sounds in words. In this book, there may be some animals that your child does not know. Read the name of a new animal and play with the sounds in that name. Ask your child to clap out the syllables in the word (help him as needed), think of rhyming words and listen for beginning sounds in words. For example, if your child doesn’t know the meerkat on page 54, you might make a game out of saying the animal’s name by dividing it into syllables or thinking of silly words that might rhyme. You might say: See if you can guess my word. Listen: Meer….kat. Clap the syllables as we say it slowly. Meer…kat. Practice rhyming words by saying, What is a silly word that rhymes with meerkat? How about Zeerpat? You might ask your child to think of another word that begins with same sound as meerkat, like mouse or music.  

Oral Language

Check out the questions in the book. Take time to answer the questions on some of the pages of this book. They are great conversation starters for you and your child, and they will help your child make connections to what you are reading!  

Oral Language

Provide real life experiences. Plan a trip to the zoo or wildlife refuge so you and your child can see some of these animals in person! On your visit, recall some of the facts from the book (which may also appear on signs), like homelands, foods, babies and sounds. Talk about what the animals look like, sound like and maybe even smell like in person!  

Make believe. Encourage pretend play by asking your child to move, make noises and act like some of the animals he learned about in the book. You might make masks or simple “costumes” to add to the make believe!

Beginning Writing

Create an Animal Journal. If your child hasn’t already started one, he can create his own Animal Journal. Gather a notebook or fold some paper in half and staple to make a booklet. Also gather some writing tools (pencils, pens). If you notice that your child seems especially interested in an animal as you’re reading about it, ask your child to write the name of that animal so that you both can find more information later in the library, a zoo or a wildlife refuge near you. Your child can bring the journal with him while you try to find more information, and you both can add information, drawings, photos and items from nature to the journal. Add more animals, and your child will soon have his own nature guide!  

Provide step-by-step hints for extra support. For example, Your snowy owl needs a head. And a body. What does he need to help him fly? What does he need if he wants to stand up? What two things on his head help him to see? What does he use to pick up the mice and small animals he eats? When your child is finished drawing, ask him to write the first letter of the animal at the top of the page. Help your child sound out the name of the animal, if necessary.

Explore more recommended children's books for five-year-olds, and take the Reading BrightStart! Preschool Reading Screener. The screener can help measure where your child is on the path to reading readiness, and comes with a free plan for moving forward.