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Bob Books #1 - Reading Magic for iPad

January 31, 2011

By: Carisa Kluver

The Digital Media Diet

Bob Books #1 - Reading Magic for iPad is an incredible app offering under the category Education. It is based on the print book series of the same name, created by Bobby Lynn Maslen and John Maslen in 1976. According to Wikipedia, "Author Bobby Lynn Maslen was involved in cooperative preschool education for nine years and then became a teacher of 3-5 year-olds at a private school in Portland, Oregon. It was there that she created the Bob Books." I loved this little fact because my husband & I are very involved in our son's cooperative preschool and have found the educational philosophy and focus on parent education/involvement so helpful in raising our son.

The digital transformation of these titles is really amazing for children learning to read. The 'book' itself is more of a hybrid of book/educational game. There are 12 pages with very short statements using the simple words. The images are at first just black and white line drawings. One page has "Sam had a cat" for instance, with the image of 'Sam' and his cat. Tap on each word and the letters for that word appear like little game tiles. If the child puts them in the right order for each word, the image represented by that word animates briefly and fills in with color.  

Once all the words for that page have been assembled the whole picture fills with color and the scene animates for several seconds. The animations are not a big part of this book app overall, but they are very well done and were a significant feature that rewarded my child for working hard on learning the words in this book.

After completing the 1st level, the book gets harder, with more words to complete and then extra tiles appear that are not part of the word. There are four levels in all and the book can then be reset to start all over again.  In the week we've had this title, my son has not completely gone through all the levels and I'm sure we will reset it and start over once he does.  This 'book' is therefore not just an excellent educational title, but also a terrific value for parents.

My only difficulty with this app was when I was trying to get out of a page and return to the main menu. It would be nice to have a more visible home button on every page within the game to allow for easier navigation. We also had the app crash a couple times, but considering how much 'play' time this book got, it represented less than 1% of our experience.

The illustrations are done by John Maslen, an award-winning watercolor painter and architect. The first Bob Books were actually individually hand-drawn. According to Wikipedia, "When it became too cumbersome to make books for each child, Bobby Lynn persuaded the school to print 300 copies. This eventually led to more sets, a cottage industry and self publishing." If you go to Amazon and look up "Bob Books" you will find hundreds of reviews for each set, with nearly 5-star perfect ratings. These print books retail for at least 10 dollars a piece and are a staple in print form for Montessori programs and home-schoolers.

It's rare that I find an iPad book that is so full of value.  I even played with it myself for a few minutes when I was writing this review.  It's interface is just that nice & intuitive.  If you have a young child learning to read and an iPad, you will not want to hesitate to download this title.  I recommend it whole-heartedly!

All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.


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Bob Books #1 - Reading Magic for iPad

January 31, 2011

By: Carisa Kluver

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Bobby Lynn Maslen/John Maslen

Learning Touch

Length (time):
30 - 60 Minutes

Based on non-digital book: Yes

Allows Own Narration:

Uses Motion: No

Age: 3 - 6 +

English •

Length (pages):
12 Pages


Story Synopsis - Bob Books #1 - Reading Magic for iPad

The Bob Books are a series of children’s books designed to teach reading skills acquisition. With a foundation in phonics methods, each level addresses a single stage in a child’s reading development. This digital version for the iPad is geared toward teaching children and includes the following twelve sentences for children to learn the phonetics, spelling and meaning of written English words:  

Mat Sat.  Sam had a cat.  Dot has a hat.  Mac got a dog and a rag.  Dot and Mit sit on a mat.  Dot got the dog and the bag.  The pig can dig and dig.  Muff and Ruff tug a rag rug.  Peg had a pet pig.  Red hen is on a big bed.  Get up Lad.  Get up Kit.  The vet got the big cat.

Sets in the print series include:

  • Bob Books Set 1: Beginning Readers (ISBN 0-439-17545-3) introduces short vowels and three-letter words.
  • Bob Books Set 2: Advanced Beginners (ISBN 0-439-84502-5) uses three-letter words and vowel sounds in slightly longer stories.
  • Bob Books Set 3: Word Families (ISBN 0-439-84509-2) includes consonant blends, endings and a few sight words.
  • Bob Books Set 4: Compound Words (ISBN 0-439-84506-8) includes new word blends, more sight words and longer multi syllable words.
  • Bob Books Set 5: Long Vowels (ISBN 0-439-86541-7) introduces long vowels and the silent E.
  • My First Bob Books: Pre-Reading Skills (ISBN-13: 978-0545019224) teaches reading foundation skills: shapes, patterns and sequencing.
  • My First Bob Books: Alphabet (ISBN-13: 978-0545019217) teaches phonemic awareness, written to help tune children's ears to the sounds letters make.
  • Bob Books Sight Words: Kindergarten (ISBN-13: 978-0545019231) introduces sight words at the kindergarten level.
  • Bob Books Sight Words: First Grade (ISBN-13: 978-0545019248) introduces 30 additional sight words at the first grade level.

[Source:  Wikipedia] 


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Orientation: Landscape

Format: Universal


Game Instructions, Music (Never, Sometimes, Always), Spelling (Phonics or Letter Names), Lin

App Release Date:


Size: 142 MB

Version: 1.0

Lite Version Available: Yes



Bob Books #1 - Reading Magic for iPad

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