Bob Books is a true first reader series, designed to make helping your child learn to read simple and straightforward.
The clean layout, short words, and simple phonics make learning to read a fun and natural step for a child that knows the alphabet.
Bob Books came about as a result of teacher Bobby Lynn Maslen’s careful attention to the specific needs of children learning to read for the very first time. As a teacher, Bobby’s work with 3 to 5 year-olds involved constant invention in art, math games, physical growth activities and, of course, reading materials. When she didn’t find books that she felt were the right fit for her young students, she created Bob Books.
The first books were handmade, inspired by two small dolls that she bought at a craft fair. She named the dolls Mat and Sam and spun stories about them, illustrated with line drawings that the children could copy and color. Soon it became too cumbersome to make books for each student, so Maslen standardized the set and persuaded her school to print 300 copies. “In the beginning I just went to the grocery store and bought baggies – little sandwich baggies – and that’s how we packaged them,” Maslen says. “The whole thing from beginning to end was a trial-and-error process.”
Portland State University published the books for several years, and word began to spread, leading to self-publishing and a cottage industry. Bobby Maslen’s husband, John Maslen, a watercolor artist and former architect, drew new pictures. The couple’s growing children helped collate and staple.
Bob Books went on to become a Children’s Book-of-the-Month-Club selection, and the series was adopted by homeschoolers and Montessori teachers. Articles recommending Bob Books appeared in The Washington Post, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and regional newspapers and magazines around the country. In 1993, USA Today ran a story about Bob Books.
Over night, the Maslens were inundated with phone calls. The books had entered the spotlight, and parents eager to help their children learn to read wanted Bob Books. “By that time we were going crazy,” Bobby Maslen says. “We knew the potential was much more than we could handle ourselves.” The Maslens turned to a major publisher of children’s books, Scholastic, Inc., for help. Today, all five sets of Bob Books written by Bobby Maslen are available to children all over the world, thanks to the partnership that was developed with Scholastic.
Lynn Maslen Kertell has been involved with Bob Books right from the beginning, starting with the first edition in the 1970s. Lynn pasted-up and hand-lettered the original Bob Books when she was in high school. Her mother’s sensitivity and approach to life remained impactful, and later in life returning to the family business was a natural step. Her experience tackling the fun, bonding and sometimes complex task of helping her child learn to read, showed her that Bob Books really work. Her daughter now joins the millions of kids that happily exclaim, “I read the whole book!”®
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