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 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
- 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
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.