Teaching Reading with Bob Books was one of the best accidental finds of mine.
A little bit of background: My husband and I had 2 sons, ages 6 and 1, when we began homeschooling. Our eldest just finished kindergarten at a local classical Christian school we were blessed with a generous scholarship to attend. Toward the end of the school year, however, it weighed more and more on our hearts that homeschooling was what was needed for our little family.
When it came to teaching him how to read once we started first grade at home, I had never really given it much thought. I mean, they did that already in kindergarten, didn’t they? He was, after all, reading.
Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t by any means a fluent reader, but he was reading. At the time, we were using a popular catholic work-book based curriculum, and I just bought whatever workbooks their checklist had for reading and phonics, gave my son his instructions, and he did it, and that was it. And I made him read everything, and he did it. Today, he is a very strong reader, and even likes to do creative writing on his free time. Overall a very hands-off experience for me, and in retrospect I honestly have no idea how it worked.
Flash forward a few years, and we are now waist-deep into the Charlotte Mason method with our now 4th-grader (we’ll call him DS1). All that we were doing was totally new, but so good and very needed. My son was now enjoying school, where before he thought it boring and dull. I was still learning (I still am) how to spread this feast, but we were happy with where we were at.
By now our 1 year old was 4 (DS2), and we also had a 3 year old (DS3) and a 1 year old (DS4). To say that I was overwhelmed is an understatement. I am not a naturally organized, lesson plan-following, type-A homeschool mom, and I had a house full of rambunctious and curious boys that I was somehow supposed to train and educate. Umm….. what?
So imagine my not-so-pleasant surprise when DS2 started asking for reading lessons, at the age of 4. I didn’t really have any plan to start formal lessons of any sort with him until he was 6, so this threw me for a loop. How can I say no to his desire? He was no longer satisfied with opening up his favorite picture books and narrating his own stories. He wanted to be able to read the words on the page.
I browsed my Charlotte Mason Facebook groups and YouTube, and decided that we would get the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and read our Bob Books Set 1 that I found at a local used bookstore for fun. Well, 6 lessons in and my son was hitting a brick wall with 100 Easy Lessons. The method was just not clicking with him. He did, however, LOVE our Bob Books, and was even reading the first few books independently on his own at that point, just from reading them with me over and over the span of a couple of weeks.
I decided to drop 100 Easy Lessons, and we just continued to read our Bob Books together. Now these weren’t really lessons at all, and eventually he only wanted to read the books that he already knew how to read and did not want to go forward, and I did now know how to teach him the new letter sounds and words we were coming across. So, like most modern moms, I hit up my Facebook groups for a solution. Someone (a saint, really) shared TRwBB with me and directed me here to Brandy’s blog. Intrigued, I looked through her entire site, watched some of her videos on YouTube, and I was hooked. I knew this was the solution! Formal lessons for my type-A child that were simple for me to implement, using books my child already loves? I was sold.
I probably could have kissed Brandy if I bumped into her at Target. Just kidding. Maybe not.
How We Used Teaching Reading with Bob Books Then
I purchased our binder supplies and put everything together. I decided to use the lesson plans provided in the blog so that I had more freedom to make changes if I chose to in the future, and started filling out our lesson cards. For several books, our lessons looked just like they are laid out in the blog, and everything was going so well. I started to rely less and less on the blog for all of our lesson cards (lesson plan rebel, remember?), and was only referring to it when I needed help with a particular sound, although I continued to follow to general rhythm of Brandy’s lesson plans. We made it through 3 sets of Bob Books using TRwBB before DS2 was ready to move on to something else. At the age of 4 ½, he now had a remarkably strong phonics foundation, and was reading, writing, and happily sounding out words on his own, thanks to this wonderful curriculum. So with a little sadness I put away our binder until DS3 was ready.
How We Use Teaching Reading with Bob Books Now
DS3 is a totally different child and has a totally different personality than DS2. As to where DS2 is all about school and sitting down for formal lessons happily and attentively as if you were serving his favorite dessert, DS3 is still very much in play-all-the-time mode. I thought for sure I wouldn’t start anything formal with him until age 6. But that familiar big-brother envy came creeping up on us again. DS3, at age 4, now wanted to do reading lessons just like his big brother. He remembered me pulling out our binder and hearing DS2 recite his sounds and having so much fun reading his Bob Books, and he wanted so badly to do the same.
Knowing his personality, I knew this would be a challenge. I only knew TRwBB the way it was laid out in the blog, but I knew that would be a bit too formal for my little guy. So I pulled out our binder and put aside all of the cards I had made previously for DS2, and re-wrote much simpler cards with only 1 letter sound on it. For example, for book 1 in set 1, instead of having one card that read M, A, T, S, I had 4 separate cards. I figured this would help us to take his lessons extra slow.
I also started learning more about Charlotte Mason’s approach to teaching reading, and am now implementing word building and sight word lessons along with our phonics lessons. Other tools I use in addition to our Bob Books and binder system are a movable alphabet, as well as sight word cut-outs and simple letter sound copy work pages I created myself. TRwBB is now more of a “spine” to our reading lesson feast. This works for DS3 very well, since he doesn’t like doing the same thing over and over, and helps us to move more slowly through our lessons. I usually only cover a page in a book at a time.
What a typical lesson looks like for us now:
- Review letter sounds in our binder.
- Pull open our Bob Book to the page we are focusing on.
- Take out our movable alphabet and sight word cut outs.
- Have DS3 copy our chosen sight words with his moveable letters.
- Ask him to “take a picture” of the word he just built and tell me again what it says.
- Mix up his letters, take away the word cut-out, and ask him to “look” at the picture in his head and rebuild the word from memory.
- Dictate the words on the page we are working through, and have him build the sentence or phrase with his word cut-outs as I dictate.
- Have him attempt to read that page, helping where needed.
That’s it! He also likes to do some pencil work so I have him do a simple copy work sheet of a letter sound we are working on, and he likes to draw on the back when he is done. It may sound like a lot, but it goes by pretty quickly, usually no more than 15 minutes, and he thoroughly enjoys it. Some days, we break it up if he wants, and we don’t always get to everything every day. We also usually spend about 2-3 days going through the same page in our Bob Book, depending on what he needs. I really love how our lessons look right now, and I can already see the fruit of it.
A question I get asked from time to time is, why not use more beautiful literature from the beginning with your child for reading lessons? Most Charlotte Mason inspired educators use Free and Treadwell or similar readers, and other classic stories and poems to teach reading. I use Bob Books for beginning phonics because of its simplicity. I love the slow phonetic progression of the books, and the simple presentation allows my child the ability to actually read the books on their own fairly quickly, building confidence.
I have not had a problem transitioning DS2 out of Bob Books. We are now using McGuffey readers as well as the Free and Treadwell readers. In fact, his phonics foundation is so strong that he has been doing very well, with little to no trouble at being able to sound out and identify more difficult words. My only regret was not having sight word lessons with him in the manner we are doing now from the very beginning.
I am thrilled to have found the Teaching Reading with Bob Books blog and lesson plans! It has truly been instrumental in teaching my children to read, and we will continue to use it later with DS4 and DS5 on the way!
If you would like to get a visual idea of how I use this curriculum, you can check out my YouTube video discussing it here:
I do hope our approach to using TRwBB helps you on your own reading journey!
Get My Free Binder Guide!
The Teaching Reading with Bob Books method uses a special binder system in order to simply and easily tailor the frequency of review to the needs of each individual child. This free guide explains exactly what you need and how to build the TRwBB Binder so that you can get started teaching right away.