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This is a product which really draws mixed reviews. Some people love these books, others hate them, but I think most of the problems stem from people expecting something different from this set. Having purchased a number of similar sets when teaching my oldest to read, and more recently, the Batman Phonics set, I knew exactly what to expect.
This is a set of 12 books, or booklets. Each book is only 5" square and 6 pages long. They are simply put together, 5" x 10" sheets, folded in the middle and held together by two staples. Each pair of pages contains one white page with an average of two short sentences in clear, large print and one colourful picture. This has disappointed many consumers, who were expecting proper story books. If you happen to find a picture online showing the books, the confusion is even more understandable as these do look very much like a line of larger Spiderman books. As these books are very tiny, they really do not contain a complete story, but if you read them in order, one book after another, they could pass for a single bedtime story. These books are taken directly from the publisher's larger Spiderman books, so if you own many of these, you may find the set is, to some extent repeating the same stories, and often the same pictures.
Another issue with these books is that many people mistake these for a phonics programme of reading instruction. If you are just starting to teach a child to read through phonics, you will want books focusing on easy to sound out words, ideally using the cvc (consonant vowel consonant) format at first and primarily short vowels. These books are not designed to be sounded out. They would be completely useless in beginning phonics instruction, and even for those who use sight reading, there are far too many words which really are not suitable for children who are just taking the first steps to literacy. Some of the words I feel a new a reader may be unfamiliar with include "menace", "molten", "whisked" and "committed". I do not feel these books are suitable as a primary means of reading instruction either for those who want to pursue a phonics based programme, or those using whole language or sight reading.
But this is not to say these books are without merit. These were purchased for my youngest son, age 3, and he absolutely loves them. I have no intention of teaching him to read at such a young age,, but he loves these little books which are perfect for little hands. He spends a fair amount of time just looking through these on his own, enjoying the pictures, and perhaps remembering the main idea of the story as he has heard these so many times. I can not say that I completely understand the process of learning to read, but I do remember looking through favourite books as a child while my Mother's voice echoed in my head, remembering the stories well before I could read. I believe that this is a step in developing literacy and something that should be encouraged in young children.
While I have not used this particular set to teach my oldest to read, I did use similar sets with different characters ( Curious George and Sponge Bob Squarepants). I did not find these books helpful in the very first stages of learning to read, but once he had started reading with proper phonics sets like BOB Books, Hooked on Phonics and Starfall, as well as learning sight reading with Oxford Reading Tree, I found these books did come into their own. As they are so short a child can easily memorise the difficult words. This not only adds to their vocabulary, but it really gives them confidence in reading.
I have noticed even now that my 7 year old will declare a comic book much easier to read than a chapter of a graphic novel, even though the two are the exact same thing ( many graphic novels are just a compilation of comics). There is something about a large book that puts many new readers off. The bigger it is, the more difficult it appears, and I did find my son could read tiny books like this with ease, showing confidence, expression and a full comprehension of the the content well before he could read larger books with an easier vocabulary. I believe most schools recognise this, and you will find most schools use very short reading primers for emergent readers. This set simply allows us to extend that practice to the home.
I have also used these books this year with my oldest, who is now 7. Of course they are too easy for him to read, but almost every book does focus on a specific phoneme, or sound, such as one long vowel sound. I have used this as refresher course in phonics , primarily for spelling using the list of words at the front of each book which all contain the same sound as a weekly spelling list. I do like the fact that each book draws attention to one sound, often showing more than one way the sound can be spelled. In addition to the 10 books which have a single sound as the focus point, there is one book focusing on common sight words a beginning reader should know, and a final book with short vowel sounds for all 5 vowels. This is of course also handy to discuss the difference between vowels and consonants and long and short vowel sounds.
While this set is not adequate to teach a child to read starting from scratch, I do find it quite helpful as an additional resource to be used along with a more complete programme. I think this set would be ideal for parents whose children are learning to read by the whole language method in school as a means to encourage some phonetic awareness. It would also be nice as a bit of extra help for a child learning through phonics at school. I do feel this set was developed for school children, who will be receiving most of the reading instruction in school. This does offer children something fun to read, that is short and simple enough to be tackled easily, thus building confidence.
I do not feel that this set was intended for the home education market, or for parents who trying to teach a child to read from scratch after the child has failed to learn in school. In these cases I would strongly recommend a more complete phonics programme as the primary source of instruction. But this set can still be useful after the child has started to read the cvc words and most common sight words. Even if using the whole language method, I would wait until the child is reading easier books first, perhaps up to level 3 with Oxford as this does contain too many difficult words. That said, the parent can still read these to a child, who may pick up many of the words on their own due to the short text.
While this set may have it's limitations, I ordered this knowing exactly what I would be getting, and I am very happy with this set. True it does make boring reading for an adult, especially after the zillionth time, but this is part of developing literacy and a price I am more than willing to pay. Seeing how much my son loves these, I have broken down and bought the third and final Super Heroes phonics set, Superman Phonics, and if they should offer another set, I would buy this as well.
This set sells for £7.53 new and delivered from Amazon. I think this price is fair enough. True the books are short, and the box is flimsy, but they are well illustrated