When my eldest son was in nursery, I bought him a couple of sets of phonic books from the Book People so we could read them over the summer holidays and stop him forgetting all he had learned. One of these sets was a Project X set. My children took to the 4 children characters in the book and enjoyed the adventures that the kids had when they turned small using watches.
The first books we had were very basic, covering the early levels of reading, so when my boys got beyond this level, I was looking to expand our collection of books to keep them interested. The Project X books are not available at all in school, and they are designed to get boys motivated in reading so I thought this would be the ideal choice for my kids.
They are printed by Oxford University Press, and the books are banded the same way school reading books are banded. This book is band 7 or Turquoise, which is where my youngest son is currently at with his reading. I would correspond this in terms of age with children who are between 5 and 9 depending on their ability.
This book has 24 pages, and covers how the children originally came across a silver box. When they managed to get inside, they discover 4 magical watches which enable the wearer to become very small and then have adventures using things that are every day objects.
My children both engaged really well with the 4 characters, and they were very excited because they could read it themselves and do so well. There is a hint at the back of the book of what comes next in the series. The last page shows that the children are going to have adventures, and there are some bubble pictures with exciting things happening in them - like rafting, or being chased by a giant rodent. Straight away my boys were asking me to work out what books they were as they wanted to read on.
I think it helps that the stories are well written, they are genuinely interesting even for me as an adult reading them, and each page has a fantastic animation which reminds me of modern cartoons as it shows CGI type drawings of the 4 children making it all look quite real.
The cost of the books ranges from £2-4 each. It is steep when trying to build a collection, but from my experience of how the children enjoy reading them and how well matched it is to the school curriculum, I find that it is really worth it. Highly recommended from us.
My son has rapidly been moving through book bands in Oxford's new series for boys - Project X. The main reason for his acceleration in reading is his desire to get to "the good books" in this series. The first set of leveled books has a very limited vocabulary, and the text is limited to one short sentence per page. While we quite liked the books, the complexity of the stories was obviously limited. The first books introduced us to a group of children with special watches that allowed them to shrink to micro size, and had some fun adventures, but what the watches were, and where they came from was never explained. Considering the short sentences and limited vocabulary, the 1st stories were quite good, but the stories have certainly become more interesting as my son has moved through the various book bands.
The Silver Box tells the reader how the children discovered the watches and sets the scene for the adventure books to come. In the this book Max finds a strange box in a charity shop. It looks like a puzzle, but try as he might, he can not open it. His friend Cat can not open it either, but she knows someone who might be able to and quickly returns with Ant. Ant is a bit of genius with gadgets and such and quickly works out how to open the box. Inside are four watches with a note "Keep Us Secret. Keep Us safe". Just then one of Max's classmates, Tiger bursts onto the scene, rather rudely grabbing the box, trying on a watch and pushing buttons. In seconds he discovers the watches special ability as he shrinks down to micro size, and thankfully is also able to reverse the effect with another button. The four children decide that each one will keep a watch and they will be "micro friends", but also that they will keep the watches secret from everyone else.
My son really enjoyed this story and at last learning how the friends found the watches, and how they became friends. Of course this is a bit like an opening or first chapter in a larger book, and basically that is what it is - the first chapter in an incredible adventure for the four friends. In later books they will discover a micro sized robot friend, meet a good scientist on the run and the evil Dr X. They will be abducted in a space craft in a cluster on great escapes, and battle swarms of evil robots in the strong defenses cluster.
This book is book band 7 turquoise. I do think it is best if a child is able to start with this series from level 1 and work up, as each book band builds on the level below it, very gradually introducing new words so that children can move through the series with relative ease. However, if buying for an older child, you probably will not want to start with three word sentences. If your child attends school I would suggest asking your child's teacher. If, like us, you home educate though, or just wish to choose books without consulting a teacher i did find a web site on leveled reading here:
http://www.pearsonschoolsandfecolleges.co.uk/ AssetsLibrary/ SECTORS/Primary/ PDFs/Parents/ guide-to-levelled-books.pdf
Just remove the space after each /.
This site gives basic age ranges for leveled reading as well as sample page of each level. I would also suggest using the "look inside" feature on amazon for an idea of type of words used.
Because this book sets the scene for later stories though, and because this series does include some less common words at each level, I think this would be an excellent book to start the series with, even for a somewhat more advanced reader.
I really do love these books. they claim to make boys want to read, and the fact that my son will happily turn off PS3 or wii to pour through these trying to reach the higher levels is evidence enough for me of their success. They are a bit expensive, but this particular book is only £2.81, new or used from Amazon Marketplace. Many of the early books in this series are only 16 pages, but this one is 24 pages. It has very high quality cgi illustrations, a good story line and the leveling system allows parents to choose just the right book to support a child's reading.