Monday, October 01, 2007

Review: BOB Books

by Bobby Lynn Maslen & John R. Maslen. This is a series of beginning readers that come packaged in a cute little box. They are each about eight pages long and tell a funny story in just a few short words. They are much more clever than many beginning readers, leaving space for the reader's creative leap of comprehension between simple text and minimalist line drawings. Much of the interest and humor come from the child's understanding of, for example, what a dog is likely to do with a lady's hat.

With monochromatic sketches and a maximum of three words per page this story is told: Dot has a hat, a lovely floppy hat with a big flower on it. Mag wants a hat too. When he gets a hold of Dot's hat, it starts looking damp and droopy. The text doesn't need to explain that the hat ended up in Mag's mouth. When Dot gives up on the hat in discouragement Mag is still happy to wear it with a doggy smile. My five year old son Buddy loves that story and reads it with plenty of giggles. He reads it with a combination of emerging decoding skills (focusing on beginning and ending sounds, sounding out the short vowel words, and guessing from context clues.) His eyes track from text to illustration and back to text. I can see the wheels turning in his head, culminating in a star-burst smile when he gets to the end of the book and reads with proud satisfaction "The End."

My oldest son Buster loved these books fifteen years ago when he was starting to learn to read. He was stuck for a while at the letter-by-letter sounding out stage. When we found BOB books he took great delight in the humor. They were books he could read with a limited sight word vocabulary and shaky decoding skills, but they involved some complexity in story line. At first reading some of the stories are hard to "get". They aren't obvious. They require some thinking and some inference. That's a difficult thing to include in a book with such a limited vocabulary. Buster appreciated the respect the authors gave him in honoring his wit and experience of the world by writing stories that required his intelligent participation to bring to life.

After I found this series for Buster I started using them in my first grade classroom. At the time I was a first grade teacher with a broad range of abilities represented in my students. That is usually the case in any classroom. I found it particularly challenging in teaching reading because their tender egos come hard up against the increasing pressure from parents and teachers to succeed in reading. Anyone not excelling begins to feel like a failure. Maslen & Maslen are masters at reaching the four to seven year old audience with a delicate balance of presentation, reinforcement, enticement and celebration.

There are five sets in the BOB Book series, focused on short vowels, word families, compound words and long vowels. The website has links and printable activity pages as well.We have used the first to sets most heavily, finding them just right for readers on the verge of sounding out short words and building a sight word vocabulary. If you have a beginning reader aged four through seven these books are right on target.

This review is part of the Mother-Talk BOB Book blog tour.


Anonymous said...

Cloudscome, my son enjoyed the Bob books, too. In fact, we still have a few around. He also liked the Clifford beginning reader sets, too.

Gentle Reader said...

Both my sons started reading with the Bob books, too. I found them amusing, too--which helps, when you're reading something over and over again!

Andrea said...

I loved Bob Books. Audrey probably would have too if I hadn't pushed them on her when she was THREE (I started reading when I was two, so I thought she was falling behind ;)) But she did like that I let her color the pictures in each book as she finished them!

Today she's a good reader, despite my over-ambitious, pushy start :)