Since I loved the Bob Books reading series so much, I decided to try out the iPad app version! If you search the App Store, you’ll find an app called “Bob Books #1 – Reading Magic HD” which correlates with Set 1 “Beginning Readers” of Bob Books (shown below):
At first I thought the iPad app would be an electronic version of the stories in Set 1, but instead it focuses more on how to recognize the different phonemes that combine together to form a word. The ultimate goal is to teach the child how to identify the different letters in a word and spell basic words.
Each level starts the same way by showing the user an illustration and a sentence from a Bob Book. Afterward, the child is encouraged to click one of the characters in the image and is challenged to spell out the word.
All the levels are similar in the fact that the child is required to drag the letters to the word below. However, there are slight nuances between each level.
In Level 1 (“Drag and drop letters to match”), the child simply has to drag the letters to the word below. This is convenient for children who still have difficulty identifying the multiple phonemes in a word so that he or she does not feel overwhelmed by the difficulty of the task. The child can put the letters in the word out of order as well. For example, if they put the “g” in pig first, that would be fine.
Level 2 (“Learn left-to-right order”) forces the child to put the letters of the word in left to right order. In the example above, the child would have to put “p” first, then “i” second and “g” last. This starts teaching the child that words are spelled in a certain order.
Level 3 (“Spell without visual hints”) the app removes the letter visual hints in the bottom of the word, so the child has to know the sounds of each letter (shown below). Simultaneously the child is learning how to spell the word from memory.
Level 4 (“Pick letters to spell words”) requires the child to spell the words, but the app adds extra letters to make spelling more challenging (shown below).
So how useful is this app? I used this app with three children of varying ages and abilities.The first child was 2 years old and still had difficulty identifying letters of the alphabet. When I introduced him to the app, he was able to complete Level 1 successfully but it took him multiple tries. However, when he progressed to Level 2, he struggled wit putting the letters of the word in left-to-right order.
The second child that used the app was 4 years old and learned English as a second language. Even though English isn’t her first language, she was able to successfully complete Levels 1-4 because she knew the letters of the alphabet and the phonetic sounds each letter made. She enjoyed doing the games, but after a while found the games too repetitive and lost interest.
The third child that used the app was 5 years old and learned English as her first language. She knew the letters of the alphabet and the sounds each letter made. She had fun playing all the four levels but, similar to the 4yo, found the game repetitive. However I noticed with her that the game drastically improved her ability to read 3 to 4 letter words. When she started reading the printed Bob books, she was able to read the books at a faster pace.
I believe Bob Books #1 Reading Magic is a useful app, but it definitely needs to be used for a certain type of student. I realized that the app was too complicated for younger children who were unfamiliar with the alphabet. The app works better for students who need extra practice learning how sounds are combined to form a word. Overall it helped my students understand that each word is made of multiple phonemes and that helped them better learn the concept of reading.
The only issue I have with the app is that the app uses the same matching game over and over again. It would be nice if they had different types of reading games so that the child would be continuously engaged in the app. Also, each level only has 12 images and the images are the same for each level. In turn, the app could be completed fairly quickly. To purchase the app, it costs $3.99 for Bob Books #1 Reading Magic and another $3.99 for Bob Books #2 Reading Magic, so it’s a little more on the expensive side for an educational app.
Ultimately though, the app serves as an excellent supplement to the printed version of Bob Books. If your child has trouble reading the regular Bob Books, then the app will definitely build their reading skills.