If you are looking for beginner readers books sets, then this article is for you!
Because we are going to see together an incredibly popular beginner readers’ book set: BOB BOOKS (set 1).
BOB BOOKS could probably be one of the most popular (if not the most!) decodable readers sets out there.
But you might be wondering what makes BOB BOOKS so popular?
Are they really so special? Is it all hype or are they worth it? How to use them?
Are there any other alternatives to them?
We will cover all of that in this Bob Books Review!
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However, before we start, I just wanted to give you a little bit of context and information on beginner readers books in general.
I think it is really important that you are aware of what I’m about to tell you before you make choose any set of books for your child or student…
When it comes to beginner readers books you basically have 2 options: leveled books and decodable books.
Decodable books (also called phonetically decodable books or simply phonics books) allow children practice their phonics skills. This is because the text used in decodable books only contains words that children are able to easily sound out. In other words, the text is aligned with the phonics skills that children have at that moment.
On the other hand, stories in levelled books use text that, first of all, is not necessarily in line with the child’s phonics level and, secondly, the use of guessing strategies is facilitated. The guessing can be facilitated by pictures that, basically, reveal the story or just by how predictable the text is.
So while on the surface they may look very similar: big letters and some pictures, these are substantial differences, as we have just learned.
Basically, the key question here that you have ask yourself is: Do you want your child guessing words or do you want your child decoding and sounding out words? If you want to know even more about this, we have this other article on the blog.
Bob Books fall on the category decodable books for beginner readers.
In my opinion, decodable books are the best option when you are working with children that are just getting started at learning to read, since they truly allow children practice their blending/ sounding out skills. Besides, you can be sure that if your child is able to read these books, he/she is actually reading, not guessing!
The BOB Books Collection is formed by 13 sets of books, divided in 4 stages.
These books gradually introduce new sounds, sight words, phonics rules, etc.
–First stage: Reading Readiness (2 sets: pre-reading skills set and my first bob books set)
–Stage 1: Starting to Read (3 sets: set 1 beginning readers, first stories, rhyming words)
-Stage 2: Emerging Readers (4 sets: advancing beginners, sight words, animal stories, sight words first grade)
–Stage 3: Developer Reader (Words families, complex words, long vowels)
See picture below.
Everything is nice and simple in Bob Books: the design is neat and simple, the stories are also short and simple, phonics rules start really simple and also get more complicated gradually, as your child’s level of phonics increases.
Even though the pictures are cute, they are also purposely black-and-white (or, well, almost black and white! – see picture below), so kids can REALLY focus their attention on decoding the words rather than looking at the pictures!
Each set of readers come in a nice box, which is a fantastic way to store books by level and stay organized!
These books are especially good for beginner readers / young children learning to read.
Now that you’ve got the necessary context and information to understand beginner readers books and more specifically BOB Books, let’s take a close look at set 1 together, in case you still have doubts or want to fully understand how all of this comes into practice!
By the way, if you want to see this information in video format instead, you can watch it here:
If you prefer to keep reading… Let’s go!
This is SET #1. As mentioned before, it comes in a nice box that allows you store the books nicely and stay organized!
When we open it, we find 18 little books inside it and a parent/teacher guide booklet. From books #1 to #12, we are introducing sounds gradually, so the books only use simple words that contain the sounds that we know so far.
In books #13 to #18, we find more stories with all of these sounds your child already knows, giving your child more opportunities to practice the sounds are his/her sounding out skills.
On the first page of each reader in the set, you’ll find a sound index that includes the actual sounds that your child needs to know in order to read the book successfully.
As you can see on the example (Reader #1 in SET 1) – to read this book successfully, your child ONLY has to know the sounds:
- /m/ as in moon
- /a/ as in apple
- /t/ as in table
- /s/ as in sun
The text in this book ONLY includes words containing those sounds.
The story in this book #1 is really simple, but it doesn’t matter. What you want is for your child to practice his/her blending skills, and give him/her the amazing feeling of being able to read a book with what s/he knows and nothing else!
On the next reader, we introduce new sounds: /c/ for the letter c, /d/ for the letter d. Next reader, we introduce new sounds: /o/, /h/, /g/, /r/
And so on and so forth.
As mentioned before, the books -little by little- become slightly more complicated. We have new sounds to remember and to put into practice to be able to read the words in the book!
By reader number 12 we have already introduced all of the most common sounds for each letter in the alphabet, and we are able to read phonetically (not relying on clues, not guessing by looking at pictures) more complicated stories.
In books #13 to #18, we find more stories with all of these sounds your child already knows. This gives your child more opportunities to practice the sounds he/she already knows.
If the high-frequency words are phonetically decodable with the phonics level that he or she’s got at that point, you’ll just find them being used sparingly in the stories, so your child can simply sound them out, rather than forcing him or her to memorize them. I know this is done all the time (asking children to memorize high-frequency words that can be sounded out), but there’s really no need. Using his/her sounding out skills is a much more effective way to approach these high-frequency words, apart from being less painful and less confusing for them!
If the high-frequency word is irregular (meaning it can’t be sounded out easily either because it follows phonics rules that are way too advanced for a beginner reader or it simply doesn’t follow the rules), in general, there are not used in SET #1.
However, I have found a few exceptions:
- ‘on’ is used in the first book (at that moment ‘on’ is a ‘sight word’ for your child because s/he doesn’t have to know the /o/ sound for the letter ‘o’ yet)
- ‘the’ is used in book #3 and continues to be used throughout the entire collection
- ‘has’ starts to be used also in book 3
- ‘was’ starts to be used in book 13.
That is ok. There are really very few, and the ones that are used are extremely common. Take the word ‘the’, for instance. It ranks at the top of the most commonly-used words in English.
So, it is good for your child to be exposed to them little by little. Besides, I should say as well, that it is incredibly difficult to write stories without using these words!
From books 1 to 12, there is no actual warning that these irregular words are going to be used in the stories and they don’t really give you any guidance on how to approach them (so a little bit of criticism here!)
Later on, from books 13 to 18, you can find that information here on the very last page of the book, where it says ‘sight’, but that is not the case for the first books.
When you are just starting out with your first book, it is a good idea to model first. You can do it with the first 2 words on the book. Or you can use a couple of words from a word list that is in line with your child’s level of phonics, if you want your child to experience how it is like to read the entire book all by herself/ himself.
For this example, let’s say you are modelling with the book.
You should point to each individual sound that you are reading with your finger and then, blend them together, to read the entire word.
m-a- t, sat
s-a- t, sat
There is a different way to go about this when you are just starting out, and that is the way that is suggested on the Parent tips booklet that you also get with Bob Books Set 1.
What they say to do is to actually cover the ending of words, so your child get to focus only on the first sound.
In the example below, we cover ‘at’, only leaving the letter ‘M’ visible. Once your child has sounded out the letter M (mm), uncover the next letter and get your child to sound it out (ahh), then uncover the next letter and get your chid to sound it out (t).
Say the 3 sounds individually a couple of times, then faster and faster, until blending the sounds together into ‘mat’.
With the collection, you also get a little Parent/Teacher guide with useful tips and also some stickers.
Besides, you also get a doorknob and a bookmark.
Each BOB set costs approximately $15 – $20.
However, you can buy the entire collection (from beginner reader that only knows a few letter sounds to skilled reader) and save substantially.
Watch final price on Amazon here.
If you are not 100% convinced and prefer to look at more options, remember you can check this other article on our blog containing a super comprehensive list of good-quality decodable books.