About a month ago, my five-year-old came home from kindergarten with a book about bomb disposal specialists. I’m sure he thought it was interesting at the time (probably based on the image on the cover), but it got me thinking about some research I’d read about how young children often select books beyond their reading ability, which can create difficulty and frustration when they try to read them on their own.

My wife and I often read to and with our kids, and we’ve been trying to have our kindergartner read some words from his favorite books (i.e., the ones he keeps asking us to read to him). But when we’d try to have him read along, we’d find ourselves saying things like “Well, when you see a p and an h together, that makes the f sound,” or “Actually, the word cough is pronounced coff.” For him, this immediately takes the joy out of reading, and he usually says, “Dad, I want to be done now.”

After some online research, I found a book series called Bob Books, which are supposed to start out simple, with a small number of short words (all of which can be sounded out) and increase in complexity as you go through the series. They had a lot of reviews, and many of them were really compelling, so I bought two sets (one called Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers, and the other called Bob Books Sight Words: Kindergarten) about a month ago.

Our kindergartner is thrilled that he can read these books on his own, and he wants to read them most evenings after school.

Here’s a video of the night the books arrived in the mail: https://youtu.be/YYvMZAlHoRY

I will say that he occasionally tries to guess based on the picture, which sometimes causes him to make errors such as adding words that are not in the text on the page. When that happens, I cover up the pictures and remind him that everything he needs is in the words.

It’s been about a month since we purchased the books, and a few nights ago he had to read with his parents as part of a homework assignment. He chose to read five of the books in Set 1 completely on his own, even correcting his own errors. We haven’t gone through the Sight Words books (i.e., words that cannot be simply sounded out), but now that he’s more engaged in reading, he should be able to get through that set as well. His new enthusiasm makes family reading time more fun, and as his skills progress, he’ll be less frustrated about reading more challenging books—alone or with us.

This is not an endorsement for Bob Books, and neither I or my business have any association with the publisher of Bob Books.