May 18, 2006


Bob Books: Set 1, Beginning Readers; Set 2, Advancing Beginners; Set 3, Word Families; Set 4, Compound Words. By Bobby Lynn Maslen. Illustrated by John Maslen. Scholastic. $16.99 per set.

      Bobby Lynn Maslen’s Bob Books have been a wonderful introduction to reading for the past 30 years. Now Scholastic is offering them in new packaging that is easy and enjoyable to use, with color cleverly added to the illustrations by Maslen’s husband, John, a watercolor painter. The result is book sets that are just as useful as ever for young readers – and even more fun for parents and teachers helping kids learn to read.

      The first set of 12 little books was originally published as Bob Books and Bob Books First! The 12 small paperbacks are packaged in a neat box – you could call it a “Bob Books Box” – with a teaching guide on an enclosed card. These books use three-letter words and short sentences – ideal for the earliest readers. But the books are a cut above other very-early-learning materials, thanks to whimsical illustrations and silly stories. For example, Book 2, Sam, includes Sam, Mat and Cat – and not only says “Cat sat on Sam” but also says “Mat sat on Sam,” showing a smiling Mat atop a Sam who is clearly being crushed in a good-natured way. The amusement value of the stories and illustrations will keep kids coming back, seeking to make further progress so they can find out more about these silly characters and their adventures.

      The second set of 12 books was originally called Bob Books Fun! Here the three-letter words continue, along with consistent short vowel and consonant sounds – important for a reading foundation in English, since vowels and consonants are not always consistent in the language and a firm grounding is required to make the variations more understandable later. This set of books uses more complex sentences than the first set. For instance, Book 5, The Big Hat, begins, “Tex was a big man,” and includes 22 words in all (the word lists at the back of the books are valuable teaching aids).

      The third set contains eight books to read plus two activity books. It was originally published as Bob Books Plus and Bob Books Kids! Here the stories become more complicated and longer, and kids are introduced to long vowel blends and consonant combinations. There are still only one or two sentences per page, but the sentences are a bit more advanced: “Mop ran after Jack and Zack” appears in Book 1, Floppy Mop. The two activity books offer reading, drawing and coloring activities that supplement the eight storybooks. Parents or teachers will need to supervise the activities to be sure kids understand them – and, just as important, enjoy doing them.

      By the fourth set, which contains four 16-page books and four 24-page ones, the stories are longer and kids are starting to read new word endings and vowel blends. This set was originally published as More Bob Books and Bob Books Plus! The final four books include the first multisyllabic word in the sequence: Samantha. Even the titles are more complex: Book 7, for example, is called Jumper and the Clown and includes such sentences as, “Her hat had spots of blue and orange.” The word and sound repetition continue here, but at a more advanced level – and the books are just as much fun to read and look at as are the earlier, easier ones.

      Bob Books remain one of the very best ways to teach kids to read. The neat new boxed format, the colored illustrations and colorful covers, the easy-to-follow teaching guides, and the overall sense of fun make these delightful little volumes as useful in the 21st century as they were in the 20th.

No comments:

Post a Comment