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School Reading Schemes Explained

School Reading Schemes Explained

Learning to read can be a daunting process for both children and parents alike. Knowing how to support them on their reading journey is just as stressful. Here at Books2Door, we have put together this blog to try and make sense of and explain the scary world of reading schemes and book bands, hopefully making them much more accessible to you. 

During this transformative period, children's reading books are categorised into levels of increasing difficulty known as reading schemes. We stock many reading schemes at Books2Door, all of which can be used independently or to complement each other. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of reading schemes, exploring their significance and offering tips on how you can actively support your child's reading development within this framework.


In UK primary schools, reading is primarily taught using phonics, which uses sounds to help children recognise words. This is a method that takes several years to shape fluent and confident readers by taking it one step at a time. At Books2Door, we stock many different phonics book sets, including Usborne’s My First Phonics Reading Library.

Book Bands

Book bands play an integral role in most primary schools across England, working alongside synthetic phonics schemes to instil strong reading skills in children. Book bands has been the most prominent reading scheme for generations, and it is still used by some publishers and schools. 

In this reading scheme, each book band corresponds to a specific reading level and comprehension ability, providing children with appropriate materials that nurture their confidence and independence, ensuring they never feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. It categorises books based on their difficulty, allowing teachers to match children with appropriate reading materials that align with their skills and comprehension. 

Book Bands

By categorising reading books into bands, educators can accurately tailor the reading experience to suit each child's individual progress. This personalised approach empowers children to tackle books that match their abilities, gradually building their skills as they progress through the book bands. As a result, children can develop a positive relationship with reading, finding joy and accomplishment in every page turned.

Read With Oxford

Read with Oxford provides a more detailed assessment of a child's reading ability than book bands by measuring factors such as vocabulary, sentence structure, and text complexity. Previously known as Oxford Reading Tree, the scheme combines phonics books and story books to provide a range of educational pathways. The publishers also have Progress with Oxford, which is tied in with the school curriculum.

Both systems work together to ensure children are reading at an appropriate level and progressing steadily, providing educators and parents with valuable insights into their reading development. By utilising these systems, schools can effectively track and support children's reading journey, enabling them to grow into confident and enthusiastic readers.

Book bands with oxford levels


The pioneering Key Words with Peter and Jane series is still available, which teaches children the classic method of repeating a limited number of words until they know them. Read with Peppa Pig takes a similar approach - it’s a less comprehensive system, but it covers the 220 Dolch sight words, so makes a great complement to other reading schemes.

Ladybird Read it yourself is a phonics-based learning system, and Ladybird Readers are great not only for new readers but also for those learning English as a foreign language, as it has Cambridge exam equivalent levels.

More reading schemes at Books2Door

There are many other reading schemes used in schools, such as The Dean Reading Ladder, Lexile Levels, and Usborne. We have put together a table to make it easier to figure out what level is appropriate for your child. 

Supporting Your Child's Reading Journey

As a parent, there are several ways you can actively contribute to your child's reading journey within the book band system. Firstly, engaging in regular reading sessions with your child allows you to monitor their progress and provide guidance when needed. By discussing the story, characters, and themes, you can enhance their comprehension skills and deepen their connection to the books they read.

Additionally, liaising with your child's teacher can offer valuable insights into their book band level and any areas that may require extra attention. This collaboration allows for a consistent and holistic approach to your child's reading development.

Remember, the journey to becoming a proficient reader is a gradual process, and each child progresses at their own pace. Encourage your child, celebrate their achievements, and foster a love for reading that extends beyond the boundaries of book bands. By nurturing their reading skills and cultivating a lifelong passion for books, you are equipping them with a valuable tool that will benefit them throughout their education and beyond.

Shop reading schemes at Books2Door

If there is a specific reading scheme you want to follow, or maybe your little one is enjoying a particular book series or theme from one reading scheme. If this is the case, why not check out our specific pages for different reading schemes? This includes Collins Big Cat Books, Bloomsbury Young Readers, Ladybird Read it Yourself, Usborne Reading Programme, and Read with Oxford (Oxford Reading Tree, TreeTops, Word Sparks and Oxford Reading Levels), and Oxford’s Project X books

Reading schemes serve as an indispensable tool in UK primary schools, ensuring that children are provided with reading materials appropriate for their level of proficiency and understanding. By embracing the book band system, actively participating in your child's reading journey, and fostering a love for reading, you are laying a strong foundation for their future academic success and personal growth. Remember, every page turned brings them one step closer to becoming confident, independent readers who can embark on literary adventures with books like The BFG, The Secret Seven, or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

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