Susan's Blog

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bob is Back

Learning to read has always seemed to me to be kind of a mysterious process.  One day when I was in first grade, the letters on the pages of The Little Red House book suddenly solidified and formed words, right before my eyes.  I took the book home in excitement that was more like panic, for fear that those words would run together again in a blurry mush, that I really did not know how to read.

But I did.  Decades later, I was dealing with so much in terms of my own little boys, that Nat learning to read was not at the top of the list.  I was in a panic again, an all-encompassing anxiety that all of the early learning skills were beyond his grasp.  He was seven and in a Pre-Kindergarten, doing his Kindergarten year.  That was the first and last time he has ever been in my town’s schools.  I had acquired the Kindergarten curriculum and I had fashioned an IEP for Nat, with goals that matched the curriculum and ideas as to how to get him there.  Trace letters in coffee grounds or sand to learn letters — maybe through the fingers would work better than through the eyes.  Sort letters and colors and numbers and shapes, to grasp their differences, and also to grasp even the concept of “different” and “same.”  The team accepted my list and made it happen; I look back on that now as a huge victory and a real plus for my school system.

At home we acquired a few toys and books for learning to read:  Spell-A-Puzzle for his literate fingers, and Bob Books for his deft eyes.  Ned and I don’t know where the Bob Books came from.  I figure it was my mother, who is a librarian, teacher, administrator, and basically literacy specialist extraordinaire.  Growing up it was said that mom read “seven books a day.”  You talk to my mother and you will believe it.

I thought the Bob Books were adorable.  So simple, so brilliant.  Literature stripped down to three-letter words and pencil-drawn minimalist people: Mat, cat, Sam, doing very basic but important things:  “Mat sat;” “Mat and cat sat.”  Once he had mastered that mysterious concept of understanding how letters combine and all their sounds work together to form words — using Spell-A-Puzzle — Nat became comfortably literate using the Bob Books to read sentences.

A short time later, Max learned to read as well.  I experienced so much of their childhood as happening almost simultaneously, because learning was so drawn out for Nat, who was two years older, and so quick for Max, who was so eager to do everything.  Max’s first books were Cave Boy, and Sir Small and the Dragonfly. And also the Bob Books. He whipped through those cute little pages.  Their simplicity touched him somehow.  When he started drawing, and even in his art now, his characters have a similar soft roundness to them as the Bob Books people.  He was so into these books that I once had the idea of making our own Bob Books, with Max and his friend Jamie as the main characters.  This idea was born from my Nat Books idea, having learned that books which feature the child are so much more meaningful to him.

I needed to teach Max and Jamie that they can’t always have goodbye treats.  That was a problem back then, especially with Jamie.  She had so much trouble leaving a playdate with Max, that Jamie’s mom and I always used the goodbye treat to soften departure.  But I knew that it was not a good habit for them.  So I drew a Bob Book with Max and Jamie learning how to leave without the goodbye treat.  Learning about how sometimes these lucky things happen, and that’s what makes them treats.

Last year, Max got a part-time job with a start-up company that makes early reading apps for the iPhone.  Editing sound files for First Words was Max’s first assignment.  Max’s second assignment was to work on all the sound for an app of — Bob Books!

The first edition of Bob Books is now available for the next generation of Nat’s, Max’s, and Ben’s (yes, he, too, learned to read with the Bob Books! The three-letter name and word format worked especially well with my three-letter family members.) Only this small-screen savvy generation will be able to learn to read anytime Mom or Dad reaches for their iPhone.  You can buy it here:

Ben, Nat, and Max sat.


Bob Books looks great! Hitting the app store immediately for Jack and Harv (my four letter word (HA) boys). 🙂

— added by Juniper on Friday, November 19, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Though these books look adorable, this just makes me panic. Reading?! Agh!!

— added by Brenda (mamabegood) on Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Brenda, Brenda, Brenda, have I taught you nothing? One little step at a time. Don’t worry about an entire lifetime of reading/not reading. Just look at the little guy and see where he is and go from there. You’re so lucky he’s little!! 🙂

— added by Susan Senator on Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Ooh, I’m going to get that, if it works on the IPad.

One of my twins is a whiz with the IPad! Well, a whiz compared to what you might think he’d be able to do when you meet him. So a whiz, to me. He might like Bob.

What a beautiful picture!

— added by Alice on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 6:04 pm