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on August 12, 2006
To see more reviews, check out the item in its previous packaging (the content has not changed) by looking up ISBN 0439145449.

Bob Books come in 5 sets on 3 levels, and they cover the fundamentals of reading through about half of the Kindergarten level, which is lower than either of the other programs. Each set contains 8-12 books for the child to read, with a line or two of text per page.

Unlike many programs, there is little to no direction for the parent. However, they are carefully crafted to introduce the sounds in a systematic and maximally rewarding way, as well as carefully choosing sight words. The very first book requires that the child know the sounds of only four letters (M, A, S, T) and one sight word (on). The rest of the first set of 12 books (12 pages each) introduces the rest of the alphabet and short-vowel sounds, carefully reviewing everything learned, as well as a handful of high-utility sight words. The second set of 12 books (12 pages each) reinforces what was learned in the first set with more text per page, more plurals, more sight words, and a few blends. The second level begins with the third set, which has 10 books (16 pages each) and introduces more text, more blends, and some compound words, while the fourth set (4 with 16 pages and 4 with 24 pages) has more blends, more sight words, and long compound words. The final set, in the third level (4 with 16 pages and 4 with 24 pages), has longer stories and introduces long vowels.

The thing my son likes most is that I'm not telling him what to do most of the time, and he doesn't have to repeat books!
Some parents find that the level of progression slows after the first set, but we're going to do them all. It helps my son acquire speed and fluency painlessly.

This isn't sufficient to bring a child to the end of the Kindergarten level, but it gets them reading basic books very fast! Many people like the later part of Nora Gaydos' series to follow up. I will use an out-of-print series that I got from my aunt for free :-) called Scholastic Phonics Ready Readers (ISBN 0439325099 and others) starting with books 37. Afterwards, there are many classic early reader books that he can read, like Little Bear and Frog and Toad.

The only bad points: The words are handwritten, which means that despite the excellent handwriting, there is some inconsistency in spacing and letter shapes that will give some readers problems. Also, if your child likes to gaze for a l-o-n-g time at every picture, painless swifty becomes agaonizing. For that case, I recommend McGuffey's Eclectic Readers
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on August 13, 2007
I have to admit, when I first got the Bob Books for my son, I was very excited about them. I thought the gradual pace of vowel and consonant introduction would make reading easier and give a natural progression. My 4-year old son read the first 3 or 4 books in the series, we were both excited, and all was well. I was thinking 4 or 5 stars.

Then within a week, my son refused to read the books. I knew that he could - he was certainly capable - but anytime I mentioned them, he would whine, complain and tell me that he didn't want to. This from the boy who is a book nut and would have me read to him 24-7 if possible! He would sit with me so I could read other books to him, and even try to read them himself, but wanted nothing to do with the Bob Books. This went on for months with the same response.

It wasn't until I started doing a bunch of literacy reading and research for my job that I realized the probable reason why the Bob Books are gathering dust on our shelves when all of the other books are well loved. They are dull. They are boring and can hardly be qualified as stories. Does anyone really talk like that? "Mat sat. Cat sat. Mat and cat sat." No wonder he would rather I read him books like "The Complete Book of Farmyard Tales" by Heather Amery or "Frederick" by Leo Lionni or classic tales like "The Gingerbread Man" or "The Fox and the Crow."

In my research, I came across two books that I highly recommend to anyone who wants their child to learn to read. These are "The Read Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease and "Reading Magic" by Mem Fox. Trelease talks about the pleasure aspect of reading - humans want to do things that give them pleasure and shy away from things that don't, it's just human nature. When we make reading more of a chore for a child or give them boring books to read, we are taking away that aspect of pleasure that will make them want to read.

A national committee called the Commission on Reading (funded by the US Dept of Education) did a 2-year study of thousand of research projects related to reading. Their report had two primary findings. The first is that the single most important activity to build success in reading is to read aloud to your children. The second is to continue reading aloud to them throughout the grades. (Yep, that means through high school, not just until they can read themselves.)

So choose books and stories for your children that they will enjoy - and that you will enjoy! Build their library and read to them as often as you can - in the morning, before bed, while they are eating lunch, while they play in the tub, use books on CD in the car, etc. If you don't know where to start, "The Read Aloud Handbook" has a list of over 1000 suggested titles in various categories to read to children. My son was reading at just over 4 years old and, other than the Bob Books failure, all I ever did was read to him. And read and read.
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on March 30, 2015
When it comes to learning how to read, there are 2 ways of teaching your child:

1. You start your child with the basic phonics and slowly work your way up. This approach is mostly phonics-based. It's the philosophy behind reading programs such as Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read,The Berenstain Bears Phonics Fun or the Bob Books.


2. You have your child learn hundreds of words randomly (sight words, phonics, plain memorization, etc). The aim is to have them recognize hundreds of words as they open any book (especially sight words which make up 75% of Elementary school text). This is the philosophy behind reading systems such as Little Champion Reader system. A child learns how to read in a manner similar to how they learned how to speak a language. First there are a few words, then there are bigger chunks of phrases and finally there are fluent sentences.

I have done some research on both ways and here is my conclusion:

-- The first method is probably the most common as it's more simplistic in its concept. The main advantage is that it helps build a child's confidence in reading right from the start and helps parents visualize the end goal (based on the difficulty of the ending books). The main drawback of this method is that it limits a child's reading to the 'Bob' or other phonics books only - it doesn't make a child equally confident about reading the regular books they may see in the library or at school. Eventually, a parent will have to help a child learn to decipher the words that were not taught in the Bob Books.

-- The second method may sound a bit harder in the beginning, but it has more advantages in the long run (in my opinion). Your child learns the main sight words (200+) plus a basic phonetic understanding, and are encouraged to read the 'regular' library/school books right from the start. Initially the number of words they recognize is a handful, but soon they start recognizing more words (mainly sight words which make up 75 percent of reading text). I know phonics is important but knowing these sight words is equally (if not more) important. The beginning of this method may be harder since it requires more parent-input, but it makes the process of reading a lot easier in the long run. Slowly your child's fluency keeps increasing, going from recognizing 30 percent of text to 80 percent (for example).

-- In my opinion, the process of reading is very similar to learning how to speak. There is an initial delay, a period when the child is 'absorbing' all the patterns of language. Soon there comes a time when the child is able to magically decipher the entire language, which is quite an accomplishment. We as parents don't limit a child's vocabulary to just easy words - instead we expose them to a whole range of words, whether easy or difficult, with the trust that they will pick up the entire language in a matter of months/years. So why not do the same when it comes to teaching them how to read? Children are amazing learners and can soon figure out whatever they are exposed to, even if it is difficult and challenging.

In conclusion, I would rather hand my child a regular book (which is quite easy and of his/her liking), let him/her master it fully; then keep moving on to more difficult books, as opposed to limiting them to just one range of phonics books and again start all over with the 'regular' books.
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on April 5, 2007
I am an educator. I could probably write books like these and illustrate them as well after seeing them over and over, BUT THEY WORK. For the money -you can't ask for better. IN CONJUNCTION with all the other tools one can use, these are one of the great helps in jumpstarting reading for your young one. My 4 year old son is already reading at a first grade level after using these books. The reason for his success with them is 1) I sit with him, helping him sound out the letters 2)Small rewards are given for each book read, and Big rewards for each Set completed 3) The books are QUICK reads(10 pages or so) making a kid feel successful right away. 4) The drawings give contextual clues, without showing other distracting elements as you find in other books -it shows only what NEEDS to be shown 5) The plots are silly -but enjoyable by little kids especially if you laugh with them. "Mat Sat on on the Cat" ha ha! Also recommended would be the Leapster L-Max and the game "Letters on the Loose" -BEFORE reading begins, children need to really know their letters and the sounds they make or they will be quite frustrated with the process.
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I had heard about the Bob books for several years. And my four year old is just starting to read. We tried them. I thought they would be great! But, I also found two sets of Level 1 Readers from the Now I'm Reading series. They're the same size and length, but my daughter loves the Now I'm Reading Readers. In contrast to the Bob Books, which are black and white, the Now I'm Reading readers are colorful and humorous. Before you buy the bob books, check out the Now I'm Reading books. You can see a preview on Amazon of both Bob Books and the Now I'm Reading books or a lot of stores carry them now so you can look at them in person.

A couple notes about short readers...
1) Bob books are black and white. If you have a very visual reader, you might want to find some that are color or that you are comfortable with them coloring in. (25 mini-books that teach word families is a set of books you can copy and let them color).
2) These books will help younger readers gain confidence. Most of my friends that like these books have two, three, or four year olds. Older readers who are practicing their phonics and are five or six may not enjoy these as much. The Now I'm Reading readers are more like the picture books with color that other kids in their classes would be reading. But, note that the Now I'm Reading readers do include more sight words than the Bob Books. This can take a little more repetition to help students really be able to read them.
3) Take it slow. Studies have shown that whether a child reads well before age 5 is not a predictor that they will be a good reader who loves to read later on. Actually, it's a predictor that they won't. I've seen it in myself--the feeling that they need to start learning now! But, really, they don't. They (and we) can take our time and enjoy the process of them learning to read! So don't get discouraged if it's a struggle for them to learn to read--it will come--in time. It's a bit like potty training, I think. Just when you think they're not ever going to get it, then they do!
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on November 28, 2012
We've taught all four kids to read, usually starting at age 4, with the Bob series. I strongly encourage you to start with Set 1 even though it looks far too simple (Mat sat. Sam sat.) because I've found once the kids are comfortable, they love it. Kids will fear failing, or get frustrated, if its beyond their ability. These start -super- simple and ramp up. The kids don't get discouraged (unless you push too fast, I suppose) because they become confident that they can read the words they learned in previous books, and new words are added slowly.

I'm not an educator, but I would describe the approach here as "Sight words that build into phonics". When you start (if you're 4 years old) you probably simply cannot sound out "Mat". But once you know "Mat" by sight, "Hat" takes only a little explaining, and pretty soon the kids knows the difference in sounds between M and H without explicitly learning it.

I see complaints in other reviews about the artwork and the black-and-white nature of the books. Rest assured, if your kid needs a 3D Turbo graphical experience to pay attention, they're probably out there. But there's something to be said for reducing something to its essentials, and that's what this series seems to do very well.
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on June 23, 2014
My daughter loves this set. I used the Bob book Set 1 in conjunction with "Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons" to teach my daughter how to read - she was handling the set 1 books on her own before she was 4 1/2. The books are small and paperback - wish there were a little sturdier. But it does a fantastic job presenting simple sentence structure, word families, and rhyming.
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on May 6, 2015
Very boring! I should not have tried these again. When my daughter was 4 (now 6 years old) we tried these books and she thought they were so boring and could not get into them. We went on to try other things and she was reading at the age of 4, got REALLY good at it when she was 5, and is an AMAZING reader now at 6. My son is 4 now and we tried them again just to see if it was my daughter but no, same thing for him too. He thinks they are so boring and can't sit longer than two minutes with these books when he can sit for longer with others. I also think they are very plain and boring. The stories are not even interesting. I would not want to read these books as a child either.
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on July 9, 2007
These books are very good for beginning readers. They are phonics based. The books get progressively harder, but stay at a beginning level. As a first grade teacher I use them in August to review the short vowel sounds the children learned in Kindergarten. The only thing that could be improved are the illustrations.
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on January 17, 2016
Perfect supplement for the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. My daughter learned to ready in no time flat with these two products. She was so amazed at herself for being able to pull the first book out and read it all by herself. She went through this set in no time flat. Great product.
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