A Guide to Book Banding
When children are in the early stages of learning to read, it is essential that they are given books to read that are appropriate to their reading level. The books need to be sufficiently challenging, but not too challenging. Then as the children make progress and develop their literacy skills further, they can be given more demanding (and more rewarding!) books to read.
The most popular system for levelling books that is used in the UK is Book Bands. Books are graded into appropriate levels, or Bands, in order to provide children with appropriate books to read.
By using the Book Banding system, we have been able to increace the choice of books offered to our children. While many of our books are Oxford Reading tree we have added books by other publishers to give our children more variety. In Reception and Year 1 the children will have their books changed by a staff member until it is decided that the child is ready to change their own books. Year 2 children will be free to choose their own reading materials from whatever colour band they are on.
As our books come from different publishers they may be labled in Stages. This is to be ignored as it can complicate the scheme i.e a Collins Big Cat Stage 3 is not at the same level of challenge as an Oxford Reading Tree Stage 3. Also some ORT books have changed stages in recent years. Staff will move the children through the Book Bands as they are ready. Below is a guide to the Book Banding system.
In very simple terms, books at each Band will have the following characteristics:
Very short, highly predictable, simple texts. One simple sentence per page, highly repetitive sentence and vocabulary structure. Natural language. Simple text variation on the last page. Illustrations directly support the text. Large print, suitable font, good spacing.
Similar to Pink but with very limited variation(s) within the text.
More variation in sentence structures, introduction of some literary conventions. Storylines likely to include more episodes.
Longer texts, up to 6-8 lines per page. Higher level of variation within text. Literary language mixed with natural language. Pictures support storyline – less support for precise meaning.
Longer, more varied sentences. Little repetition in text, but unfamiliar words repeated. Print may be in captions, fact boxes, etc. Events sustained over several pages.
Stories up to 250-300 words, with more space for print than illustrations. More complex sentence structures, more literary language. Broader range of texts (plays, poetry, etc.).
More extended descriptions, more use of literary phrasing. Non-fiction texts use more challenging vocabulary. Lower dependence on illustrations.
Longer, more complex sentence structures. Some books with short chapters. Wider variety of genres. Characters becoming more rounded and distinctive. Non-fiction texts cover an increasing curriculum range. May include glossaries, indexes, etc.
More challenging again. Storylines may reflect the feelings of the writer. Widening vocabulary, but still a controlled proportion of unknown words.
Another step up. More subordinate phrases or clauses. More than one point of view may be expressed in the text and action might be implied rather than spelled out.
The highest level in the original bands.
Many schools use the Book Bands system to ensure that each child is reading books at the appropriate level for him or her. The highest Band in the original schema was Lime Band. Some schools found that some of their students had reached the top of Lime Band, but still needed to be offered levelled texts, rather than having free range in the library to choose anything they wanted to read (sometimes called ‘free readers’). As a result we use the following bands after Lime: Brown, Grey, Light Blue and Burgandy. These colour bands are used (for example) by Pearson Bug Club, Oxford Reading Tree, Rigby Navigator and Ransom.