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Age level : 4-7
Educational: Ideal for teaching reading through phonics.
Illustrations: Poor, very simple black and white similar to stick men.
Story quality: very limited.
If you've read my other reviews, you'll know I usually expect books to have a certain amount of fun and quality story even if they are educational. So you may be wondering why I have given this set 5 stars even though the illustrations are very basic and there isn't much of a story. The reason is, the fun in this set comes from the joy of accomplishment as children break the code and are able to read independently.
The first book uses only four sounds: m, t, s, and soft a, plus the word on. Each letter is presented next to simple picture showing its sound. Basically it is just Mat sat, Sam sat ..... The second book brings in the sounds c and d, and has a total of 6 phonetic words, + O.K. Each successive book will add more sounds and more words while repeating words from earlier books. This series will only use soft vowels sounds and three letter words for the entire twelve books. It also uses the numbers 1 -10 in book nine.
Most children will be able to read the first few books very easily from about 4, but many will not be ready to make the jump to the higher levels before age 5. Its basically a matter of reading readiness, which children will reach at different ages. In our case, my son already knew the alphabet when we started with this set, but that is not necessary, in fact not recommended by many. Anyone familiar with Montessori will know she recommended teaching letter sounds first, not names. Its up to you whether to read the letters at the start of each page by the letter name and give the sound or only use the sound.
I really do think these are a very useful set for home educators, teachers, or anyone wanting to help a child learn to read at home. I know many people have also used them with great success for children with learning difficulties, who had been unable to learn to read at school. This is a reasonably priced set, and will give a child confidence that they can read. Of all the sets I have tried - you will see results with this one in the shortest period of time, and learning to read these is almost effortless if a child is ready. But it is only an introductory set, using almost exclusively simple CVC ( consonant vowel consonant) words and short vowels. Your child will not be able to pock up most children's story books and read them after completing this set. Ideally you will need to buy a few more advanced sets as your child progresses, or use this with another set.
The only disadvantage to these books would be parents trying to use them too early. You certainly can teach a three year old to read with this, but teaching before reading readiness can cause more problems then it solves. With young children I would really recommend you let them choose when to use the books and work at their own pace.
Some signs that a child may be ready to start reading include:
Recognises their own name in print, and perhaps other common words.
Recognises and can form patterns, like repeating patterns with blocks.
Recognises at least some letters of alphabet by sound or name.
Asks "what does this say"
Enjoys listening to stories, knows print represents words which form the story, knows print is read left to right etc...
Most importantly - the child wants to read!
Update: as enthusiastic as I was about BOB Books when this was written - I like them even more now. My youngest is now learning to read, but he really struggled to learn his ABC's. He became discouraged and felt he would never be able to read. BOB books have given him the confidence that he can do it. The smile on his face as he reads these books is worth a million pounds!