Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Before Five in a Row

We’re quintessential booklovers.  I don’t think Miss Esmé has ever said “no” to a picture book read-aloud in her lifetime.  (It has nothing to do with prolonging the start of her naptimes or bedtimes, I’m sure.)

Jesse Bear

Which means we’ve tried a few book-based preschool curricula in the past, and we were more than happy to try another one!  The Five in a Row (FIAR) program is one in which the same book is read aloud for five days in a row, followed by discussion and/or activities related to the book.  Before Five in a Row:  A treasury of creative ideas to inspire learning readiness by Jane Claire Lambert, is FIAR’s product for preschoolers.

In our review of the product, we read through Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by N.W. Carlstrom and Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, as well as doing related activities.


Not to leave out the eager younger children, this volume provides mini Five in a Row- style lessons for youngsters. This book; however, is divided into two parts, the first being similar to the other curriculum guides. Just as in the original series, each unit is built around a simple, classic children’s storybook. This book differs from the older volumes in that it is not structured around a week. The purpose is simply to provide an array of activities for each book that engage children and lay the foundation for further learning. Some of the activities are subject related, such as Bible, science, math, language arts, and art; others are various skills such as learning shapes, sequencing, colors or problem solving, and the rest are centered on specific topics, like relationships, contentment, birthdays or another book-related idea. The second part of this book focuses on arming parents with creative ideas to build learning readiness. This section is a treasure trove of activities that help develop reading readiness and motor skills or focus on the arts. Additional activities also capitalize on teachable moments that arise during bath time, in the kitchen, or during a trip to the store.

Recommended Age:  Preschool, ages 2-4

For More Info:  Before Five in a Row Product Page, Sample Lesson Description

Price:  $35.00

To Purchase:  Rainbow Resource Center

For More Reviews: TOS Crew

What Esmé Liked: 

Books!  More books! 

What Mom Liked:

  • Gentle approach.  If you are looking for a gentle approach to preschool education, this is for you.  This book is not about schoolwork.  It’s about reading to your child, talking with your child, doing things with your child.  It has lots of practical suggestions to incorporate learning into your preschooler’s day in a natural, easygoing way.  All suggested activities are play-based.
  • Book selection.  BFIAR included a lot of our old favorites, such as Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?, Goodnight Moon, Corduroy, and The Snowy Day.  They introduced us to some new favorites, including The Big Green Pocketbook. 
  • Christian approach.  Some of the suggested books are Christian titles – I love this!  And a Bible section is included for each title, with a verse reference and a suggested activity/discussion.  There are also lessons on character, manners, hospitality, and more.
  • Lots of additional resources available.  You can find some excellent supplemental resources available specifically for BFIAR book selections – a big plus for some of us not-so-gentle educators.
  • Creative Ideas for Learning Readiness.  I appreciate the authors’ inclusion of “Part Two:  Parent’s Treasury of Creative Ideas for Learning Readiness.”  This is full of practical ideas for dramatic play, motor skills development, art, and ways to integrate learning into grocery-shopping trips, etc.  I’m very much in favor of intentionally incorporating learning opportunities into everyday activities, and this section helps parents figure out how to do just that.

What Mom Didn’t Like:

Let me preface this by saying I have no reservations in recommending this product.  It is a delightful resource, one we’ll continue to use, and would be an excellent fit for many families.  There are a few reasons it isn’t a “perfect” fit for our family, and you’ll notice some of these are the very reasons I like the book.

  • Age range. While Esmé is within the recommended age bracket for this book, it is really targeted towards the beginning of the preschool years, I think.  She could certainly have fun with many the activities, but I didn’t see a lot of new knowledge or skills coming from them.
  • Repetition.  Esmé has never been one to enjoy reading the same book night after night.  (She’s never had a favorite blanky or animal or been big on routines of any kind.)  We both like a little variety.  We get around this easily enough by reading the main book a couple of times, then just using it as a reference point while reading a variety of related books.
  • Book selection.  I loved the books we were able to obtain, but as someone who makes major use of our public library for financial reasons, it was disappointing to find only 13 of the 24 books available there.  Also, many of these books are more appropriate for the younger preschooler – not that Esmé complained or anything!
  • Gentle approach.  I’m of the “accelerated academics” school of thought.  I started “alphabet” school with Esmé at 15 months, and since she’s been keeping ahead of me every step of the way, I’m quite happy with having gone this route.  After working through a BFIAR lesson, my initial response was, “That’s it?”  Personally, I felt the need to supplement the activities to maximize learning opportunities.

Thanks to FIAR for providing the game for review and to TOS Crew for coordinating the review.  We are not being paid for this review, and all opinions are our own…



Sweetpeas said...

Love the picture of your daughter sleeping with the book, Jesse Bear was a favorite at our house too!