So, I'd committed myself to a review for the BOB Books Blog Tour, and my scheduled date for the post was Monday. I'm so sorry to be so late! Germs + me X (siblings with drama) = blech. So, without any further ado, here's what I thought...
First of all: >Mother Talk sent me these books to review, even though we all know I'm not a mother. I signed up as an extraordinarily involved auntie and, because of my experience working with young children and helping them learn to read, I was pretty excited to be a part of this review for BOB Books: I'd heard some great things about them from some of the homeschooling bloggers I frequent, and, even though I'm not currently working, I like to keep building my teacher's toolkit for when I'm eventually able to go back to work.
Learning to read involves a number of specific skills that have to be mastered - concepts of print, phonemic awareness, grammar, fluency, comprehension, etc - and these books focus specifically on decoding. Decoding is recognizing and distinguishing between each letter of the alphabet and their specific sounds. As you can imagine, it's pretty vital to reading.
The BOB books I was sent are series 1, for beginning readers, and focus almost exclusively on introducing the sounds of specific letters and how you blend them together to make words. Each book introduces beginning and ending consonant & short vowel sounds on the inside front cover, and then uses those letters and sounds (M - A - T) to put together a short word (Mat) in brief (2 - 3 word) sentences. There's about 6-10 pages per book, and the 'stories' they tell are quick and simple: these books are not long on plot, but that's also not what they're for, particularly. They're very reminiscent of basal readers (aka Dick & Jane books) or easy readers that we use in classrooms already to help kids decipher the sounds that each letter represents, within the context of a book.
I liked that they came in a set, and that each book builds on the skills and vocabulary from the last book. Lil Girl is only 16 months, but she liked the pictures and silliness of the stories (Mat sat on Sam), and Youngest Nephew, who's in 2nd Grade now, is a bit older than the age group these are most helpful for (Pre-K/K, any beginning stage reader), but he loved that he could read the whole set by himself.
The teacher part of me wants to stress the fact that you shouldn't use phonics alone to help kids learn to read: you need so many other things too - Parents who read/an environment where reading is respected. Rich and engaging children's literature, to help contradict the idea that 'reading is boring.' Time and patience and practice. But BOB Books are certainly worth adding to the mix, especially for kids who head into information overload when there's too much going on in a book - the lack of distractions here, the simple text and illustrations, will give them a better chance at grasping the necessary skills for reading, and the confidence that they can master those skills.