When I bought these books a couple of years ago, I instantly regretted it. My older kids hated them and thought they were absolutely boring. And I didn't blame them. There didn't seem to be much of a storyline and the pictures were largely uncolored line drawings.
But a couple of weeks ago when I tried them on my youngest, he loved the idea of having little books that he could use to practice phonics concepts and try out his nascent reading skills. These books gave him that much-needed boost of knowing he could actually read a whole book all by himself. He seems to find phonics work more fun as a result.
We now have the First Story Set as well as the Second Set. We're working on this one and the First Story Set. The books also help to build reading stamina, progressing from single and 2-word sentences to longer sentences. Phonics concepts are introduced in a fairly structured fashion.
It does help to look at the pictures first and to discuss the story--what little there is of it. But for children who might be bored stiff by these books, I'd recommend the Thomas and Friends: Get Rolling With Phonics set from Step into Reading and Molly Coxe's Hot Dog, also a Step Into Reading book. Colorful pictures and a stronger storyline make those far more engaging.