Saline school teacher Jodi McMaster had been teaching kindergarten and first grade readers for many years. But when McMaster looked for a curriculum that effectively taught new readers the rules of pronunciation for all consonant and vowel combinations, she could not find one. She decided to write one herself. “I came up with the idea (for the book) when I started looking for one reading strategy that applied to all the different vowel/consonant combinations,” McMaster said.
McMaster developed a new approach to teaching children how to recognize which vowels get to “shout” and which vowels remain “silent”. When she began using this new approach in her classrooms, she quickly saw how effective it was. Her new teaching strategy began to receive a lot of attention, so in 2015, McMaster wrote the book Circus Vowels. Today, the book and its interactive curriculum have been used in thousands of classrooms around the country.
“I started writing the book because I was getting lots of emails from other teachers and parents who had heard of this idea and wanted to learn more. I kept explaining it to everyone and I got a little bit tired of that, so I decided to write a book to help explain it with pictures. It has snowballed since then,” she said.
A family affair
McMaster is the mother of two school aged sons, Blayne, 8, and Ryan, 6. Her experience as a mother and sister helped her to form the concept of “sibling vowels” that is used throughout the story.
“In the book, the vowels are brothers and sisters. They are also mean to each other. The second vowel in the word always pinches the first vowel. This causes the first vowel to yell his name when the second vowel is quiet. He is quiet because he doesn’t want to get into trouble,” McMaster explained.
“The consonants are moms and dads. I think this story is very relatable for kids because most of them have brothers and sisters. When I ask them if they have ever done this to their brother or sister, they always laugh and say yes,” she said.
A class act
McMaster also developed an interactive curriculum to accompany the book. Students wear letter vests to represent consonants and vowels.“This strategy is relatable to children because it is all about family. It is also interactive, so the children can act it out.”
McMaster has presented her reading strategies at international and state conferences, and hopes to get the Circus Vowels Reading Strategies into all schools across the country.
“I have seen this book impact the learning of students with my very own eyes,” she said. “It is so fun to teach them because they are engaged and they get to act out the strategy. These strategies have a fun story that they can remember.”
The book has had an impact in her own household as well. “When Blayne had just turned five, I read him my book and he instantly started reading long vowel words. I started to cry because not only did I write a book that helped my own children to read, but I also wrote a book that has helped over 100,000 children learn to read. This makes me feel so proud as an educator, but more importantly as a mom.”
For more information on Circus Vowels visit