Tuesday, August 17, 2010

B is for Bob Books

Being a fan of Bob Books, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to  host a Q&A with Bob Books brand manager,  Lynn Maslen Kertell, the daughter of Bob Books creator Bobby Lynn Maslen. 

Tell me a bit about how the Bob Books series came to be.

The Bob Books started when my Mom, Bobby Lynn Maslen, was a teacher of three-, four-, and five-year-olds in Portland, Oregon. Bobby introduced very beginning reading to her students by sitting at a table with a child, and writing a story with him or her. The tale was very simple, the two of them sounded out the words together, and Bobby made drawings for the student to copy or color. Often, other young students gathered around to watch. When the child had finished reading this hand-made book, he could bring it home to share.

After several years of hand writing many little books, Bobby developed them into the first set of Bob Books and enlisted award winning artist and husband (and my Dad), John, to illustrate them.

Right from the start, the books were a big success. Word of mouth spread the news, and soon my parents had many customers and a demand for more books. Bobby soon wrote two sets of books, then two more, until the series had grown to five sets.

The two newest sets of books - Bob Books Sight Words – are written by me, their daughter Lynn Maslen Kertell, and are available this month. 

What makes this early reading series different from others?
Bob Books were the first books-in-a-box reading program, developed over 35 years ago. There are several real differences from other beginning reading systems:
The books are real stories with a plot, humor, empathy and warmth. Children learn to read, and  they have pleasure of reading a story they enjoy.
The books are written with consistent letter-sounds, so all words can be sounded out, except the sight words. Children don’t have the unhappy surprise of long words or complicated spellings they are not ready to read.
They progress gradually, so children feel success with each book.

To what do you attribute the success of Bob Books?

They work! Bob Books have grown by Moms telling Moms, teachers telling parents, librarians passing on the word, and of course bloggers writing about their experience with their own children.

The magic of Bob Books is when a child can excitedly exclaim, “I read the whole book!”® It is that simple.

What are some signs that a child is ready to begin with the Bob Books series?

Every child is different, so there is no specific age when your child will be ready to begin reading. Instead, look for signals that he or she is ready.
  • Can she or he recognize and name most letters?
  • Does your child know which sounds go with which letters (which sound does a letter “make”)? 
  • Can your child recognize words on everyday objects such as STOP and Open signs? 
  • Can your child spell his or her own name? 
  • Is your child interested in books and reading, and excited to sit down with you to read?
If you answer ‘yes’ to most of these questions, your child is ready for Bob Books-Set 1 and Bob Books Sight Words-Kindergarten.

How can parents determine with which set they should start their children?
We always recommend that children start with Bob Books-Set 1. To read the first book, children only need to know the letters M, A, T and S. With the early success of reading a whole book themselves, children are excited and confident to try more.

Every child is different. Some children move directly from Bob Books-Set 1 to Bob Books Sight Words-Kindergarten. Others benefit from a more moderate pace by reading Bob Books-Set 2 before tackling Sight Words.

Bob Books Sight Words-First Grade continues with simple, phonetic spelling and but more complicated sight words. Then you should continue to Bob Books Set 3, which introduces longer stories and words, Set 4 that presents multi-syllable words, and Set 5 which focuses on long vowels.

What are some extension activities that you suggest?
There are many great games you can play to prepare children for reading:

Beginning Readers
  • Play sound games: Ask your child to think of a word that begins with M.  Mmmmmm. Mop, map, man, moose. Now try a different beginning sound. 
  • Word families: Use magnetic alphabet letters or blocks to spell words for your child. Show that changing the first letter changes the whole word. Map, tap, lap. It works with ending or middle letters, too! Lap, lad, lid. Make up nonsense words.
  • Draw giant letters with sidewalk chalk. Follow them with feet or fingers. 
  • Make letters in sand, with clay, or cut them from sand paper.
For Sight Words
  • Go on a sight word “hunt.” Give your child one or two flash cards (included in Bob Books-Sight Words). How many times can she circle the sight words on a page of an old magazine?
  • Using cut-out pictures from magazines and flash cards, make up sentences or stories. 
  • Have flash card races – how many flash cards can your child read in 5 seconds? 15 seconds?
And of course, read to your child often.

 Enter to win a Bob Books Back to School Pack, which includes a Bob Books lunch box, Bob Books Sight Words Set for Kindergarten, and Bob Books Sight Words Set for First Grade.