Review of MPI’s Building Blocks Library

Full disclosure: I was asked to write some additional readers for this series last year, and they just came out. I’ll try not to be too gushy in this review.

The Building Blocks Library, published by Matsuka Phonics Institute, is a ten level series with 82 titles. The first four levels are written as phonics readers to help students start reading, the ones after that are leveled readers for extensive reading.

The good:

  • The same characters appear in many of the books, developing throughout the levels
  • Ten levels means that students can move up through the series gradually and read at their level
  • The artwork and production values are high and the books are attractive
  • Each level comes with a CD of the books read aloud: the CD is well made and the voice acting is good
  • Most of the books are interesting with varied story lines
  • The series is reasonably priced, especially considering they come with CDs

The bad:

  • There are not enough books at each level to meet student needs (this has been partially addressed with the new Level 0 and Level 1A sets, but schools will still need to supplement this with other materials)
  • The difficulty outstrips the content at the higher levels, ie they are difficult for ordinary junior high school students to read even though the stories probably appeal to students that age the most

Overall:

This is a very nicely produced series that appeals to students and is economical and easy to integrate for schools. The main drawback is that there are not enough books at each level to allow students to move up the levels smoothly -ideally students would be doing much more reading at each level before moving up so teachers will have to supplement this with other materials.

Thanks for the review, Ben.
I just got Levels 0, 1, and 2.
I realized 6 books from Level 0 and 7 books from Level 1 focus on short vowels while the rest of the books in these packs focus on ‘magic e.’ This means that if a teacher has a systematic phonic instruction strand, and wants to use this series following their syllabus, s/he needs to spend a bit of time considering how to organize these books in their library.
Now I wonder how I should use them myself. Hmm…
Mari

Hi Mari

Thanks for commenting! I use the BBL series as extra practice, both for younger students (in which case I choose a title I think they can read) or older ones (in which case I challenge them to read as many as possible of an appropriate level in a time limit).

As you know we use the Jelly and Bean as our core series for systematic phonics practice.

Thanks, Ben, for sharing your approach! I’m going to test some of the books today with a group. Just to add, I am now waiting for Level 1A to arrive. It was out of stock for a moment at a on-line bookstore. 🙂
Mari

29 Jan 2013, 10:20pm
by Trevor Lawless

reply

Hi Ben,

Fantastic review of some of the readers on the market!

I like the BBL series because I think they are well written, interesting stories, and the audio is excellent. Are there any supplementary materials available for this series?

There are some great downloads available for the Penguin kids books on the Pearson website.

Thanks.

Hi Trevor
Thanks for the kind words! At the moment it’s just the books, but some of the MPI coursebooks are linked to BBL. See their website for more details (Japanese): http://www.mpi-j.co.jp/store/563.html

 

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