What's the Best Reading Scheme for My School?

We know that a new reading scheme is a significant investment for any school, and teachers will want to ensure the books they buy are just right for the school's needs over the next few years.

Key educational publishers such as Collins, Oxford and Pearson offer a range of reading schemes from professional literacy experts, authors and editors but which is right for your school?

We hope these frequently asked questions will be a help to you in choosing your school's reading resources, but if you need more help, do give us a call. As we offer schemes from all leading educational publishers, we are in a position to find the best fit for your school's needs.

WHAT IS A READING SCHEME?

A Reading Scheme is a series of precisely levelled and skilfully written books that supports reading development. Key educational publishers such as Collins, Oxford and Pearson offer a range of reading schemes from professional literacy experts, authors and editors.

WHICH READING SCHEME IS BEST FOR MY SCHOOL?

Choosing a reading scheme is a process that is unique to every school and each will have its own reasons for purchasing a particular scheme. In many schools the books used might differ between year groups even. For example, Reception and Year 1 classes may be using a rigorous phonics-based reading scheme to match their learning across the phases outlined in Letters and Sounds whilst Year 2 follow book bands and a scheme with a variety of genres to practice their phonics, build confidence and enrich comprehension.

RIGOROUS PHONICS TEACHING SCHEMES

PHONICS SCHEMES AND DECODABLE TEXTS

EMPHASIS ON PRACTICE, COMPREHENSION
(BOOK BANDS)

Dandelion Readers

Read Write Inc Phonics (OUP)

Floppy’s Phonics Sounds and Letters (OUP)

Jolly Phonics Readers

Project X Phonics (OUP) – small scheme

Bug Club Phonics (Pearson)

Rocket Phonics (Rising Stars’ Reading Planet)

Big Cat Letters and Sounds (Collins)

Songbirds (OUP)

Explore with Biff, Chip and Kipper (OUP)

Project X Hero Academy (OUP)

Floppy’s Phonics Fiction & Non-Fiction (OUP)

Ransom Reading Stars: Levels 1–4

Decode & Develop with Biff, Chip and Kipper (OUP)

Bug Club Independent (Pearson)

Project X Origins (OUP)

Big Cat (Collins)

Engage Literacy (Raintree)

Ransom Reading Stars (Ransom)

Classic Oxford Reading Tree — Biff, Chip and Kipper (OUP)

Rising Stars’ Reading Planet: Comet Street

Rising Stars’ Reading Planet: Galaxy

Oxford’s — Traditional Tales, Story SparksAll StarsinFact, Fireflies and Glow-Worms

Rigby Star Family —  Guided / Independent

ARE PHONIC BOOKS BANDED?

Ideally phonics books will follow the same progression as outlined in Letters and Sounds (DfE, 2007) and historically a book bands approach and phonics approach have not been compatible per se. More authors and publishers are using a best-fit approach to matching the phases of Letters and Sounds and book bands as this makes it easier for schools who are using the book bands system.

WHICH SCHEMES ARE FULLY DECODABLE?'

See the chart above

WHAT IS THE BEST SCHEME FOR TEACHING PHONICS?

This is totally subjective and a choice made by schools. You can use reading schemes in two ways — to deliver phonics learning or to support phonics learning. Leading schemes using a phonics system include Pearson's Bug Club Phonics, Big Cat for Letters and Sounds and Floppy's Phonics Sounds and Letters. The series consultant on Floppy's Phonics is Debbie Hepplewhite MBE, a prolific author, trainer and advisor on synthetic phonics. Big Cat for Letters and Sounds is a series of beautifully presented books fully aligned to Letters and Sounds and is banded from Lilac to Turquoiuse. Pupililuls can enjoy engaging stories and explore exciting non-fiction topics whilst practising and consolidating all of the required phonemes and graphemes throughout the phases. Bug Club Phonics books are aligned to Phases 2–5 of Letters and Sounds and introduce the phonemes and graphemes systematically, providing valuable experiences and opportunities to practice and build on the phonics taught in class. Books are bright and colourful and the writing is not stilted despite the systematic approach.

CAN YOU MIX UP READING SCHEMES?

Many schools buy into several different reading schemes to give breadth and choice to the children — particularly for the home/ school (book bag book) reading programme. Many choose to have one favoured scheme for Early Years / KS1 Guided Reading. It is possible also to use a reading scheme from one publisher and bolt on to this. For example by using Oxford levels and selecting across the many new series — all linked by the common progression system that is unique to Oxford Reading Tree and TreeTops. To mix and match publishers such as Pearson and OUP, book bands can be used as common progression levels. Book bands were deliberately established to enable schools to offer a range of different reading scheme books based on the criteria outlined in the publication Book Bands for Guided Reading (Bickler et al, Institute of Education). This can add variety to children's reading and can be a great way to refresh your reading scheme stock with a newer series from a different publisher while still keeping the value in your existing offering. You may also want to add diversity in a particular area, such as non-fiction or phonics for Key Stage 1. Badger Learning offer a range of Mixed Scheme boxes that have been levelled by book band or phase to ensure a systematic progression is in place.

HOW DO BOOK BANDS WORK?

Book bands derive from levels initially presented by the UK Reading Recovery National Network but publishers have extended these levels to provide schools with a structure across the entire reading journey. Starting with wordless books at Lilac level, colours progress through 17 stages from Reception to Year 6. Some schools stop at Lime and pupils choose 'real' books from this point on. Others continue with a reading scheme book and a library book of free choice. If the 'real' books are also banded then this helps to guide book choices for pupils who are 'free readers' i.e. not continuing with a reading scheme after a given point.

Typically progression looks like this*:

Reception: Lilac
Level 0
Pink A / Pink B
Level 1
Red
Level 2
Yellow
Level 3
Year 1: Blue
Level 4
Green
Level 5
Orange
Level 6
Year 2: Turquoise
Level 7
Purple
Level 8
Gold
Level 9
White
Level 10
Lime
Level 11
Year 3: Lime (Emerging)
Level 11
Brown (Expected Level)
Level 12
Grey (Exceeding)
Level 13
Year 4: Brown (Emerging)
Level 12
Grey (Expected Level)
Level 13
Dark Blue (Exceeding)
Level 14
Year 5: Grey (Emerging)
Level 13
Dark Blue (Expected Level)
Level 14
Dark Red (Exceeding)
Level 15
Year 6: Dark Blue (Emerging)
Level 14
Dark Red (Expected Level)
Level 15
Black / Black+ (Exceeding/Gifted)
Level 16

*all readers will progress at different speeds and may have spurts at varying times

WHICH READING SCHEMES HAVE LILAC BOOK BAND?

Lilac books can be found in Pearson's Bug Club, Collins' Big Cat, Rising Stars' Reading Planet Lift-off and Oxford's; Explore with Biff, Chip and Kipper, Story Sparks, Traditional Tales, inFact, Decode & Develop, Project X: Hero Academy and Floppy's Phonics.

WHICH READING SCHEMES EXTEND TO YEAR 6 OR HAVE KS2 BOOK BANDS?

KS2 book bands most frequently use the colours: Brown, Grey, Dark Blue, Dark Red and Dark Red Plus (sometimes referred to as Black) , but other systems are out there including the popular Big Cat series that uses Copper, Topaz, Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire, Diamond and Pearl (which can be matched best-fit to the popular book band colours.

Oxford offers the TreeTops series — namely Project X (Origins or Alien Adventures), TreeTops' inFact (Non-Fiction), Reflect, Greatest Stories, Chucklers, Myths & Legends and Graphic Novels.

Raintree's Engage Literacy – book band colours up to Dark Red.

Collins' Big Cat – colours outlined above with Pearl being for gifted readers.

Pearson's Bug Club Independent- book band colours up to Dark Red.

Publisher Range Brown Grey Dark Blue Dark Red Black (Dark Red+)
Oxford TreeTops Project X Project X Project X Project X Project X
Oxford TreeTops Chucklers Chucklers Chucklers Chucklers Chucklers
Oxford TreeTops Greatest Stories Greatest Stories Greatest Stories Greatest Stories Greatest Stories
Oxford TreeTops TreeTops inFact TreeTops inFact TreeTops inFact TreeTops inFact Treetops inFact
Oxford TreeTops Reflect Reflect Reflect
Oxford TreeTops Myths and Legends Myths and Legends Myths and Legends Myths and Legends
Oxford TreeTops Graphic Texts Graphic Texts Graphic Texts Graphic Texts
Raintree Engage Literacy Engage Literacy Engage Literacy Engage Literacy Engage Literacy
Collins Big Cat Copper (Brown) Topaz (Brown/Grey) Ruby (Grey) Emerald (Grey/Dark Blue) Sapphire Diamond Pearl (Red/Black)
Pearson Bug Club Bug Club Independent Bug Club Independent Bug Club Independent Bug Club Independent Bug Club Independent
Rising Stars Reading Planet Mercury & Venus Earth & Mars Jupiter & Saturn Saturn & Supernova

ARE THERE ANY SCHEMES THAT SUIT BOYS?

Oxford's Treetops Chucklers have high appeal for readers who love humour and TreeTops inFact is fascinating for those who love fact-finding. Many teachers feel that the Project X series' (Origins and Hero Academy) has more potential to captivate boys. The graphics are CGI and the character-led adventures are akin to popular TV adventures – like Transformers. Pearson's Bug Club Independent mixes lots of comics, TV and cartoon characters (including Dr Who) and engaging formats.

WHICH IS THE BEST READING SCHEME FOR KS2 STRUGGLING READERS?

Many schools find that there are some children with phonic gaps still in their reading in Year 2 & KS2. These reading schemes offer extra phonic help for struggling readers.

Year 2 and Lower Key Stage 2 (LKS2)

Upper Key Stage 2 (UKS2)

Project X Code

Big Cat Phonic Progress

Dandelion (revists Phonics)

Big Cat Phonic Progress

Ransom Reading Stars Plus

Dandelion (practices Phonics)

BADGER LEARNING SCHEME SHOP

"We are delighted that Badger Learning' Scheme Shop is fast becoming teachers' favourite place to quickly and confidently source quality reading books for a varied, progressive and vibrant whole-school reading programme. The ultimate Badger Learning aim is to help create an inspiring reading environment whereby young readers are challenged, encouraged and happy to read their latest book. These books will not languish in an unopened book bag we promise you that! They won't crinkle either as Mary and Tracy will have fitted every book with a protective jacket to make sure your investment lasts."

Are you looking for something new?

New Phonics schemes include Pearson's Bug Club Phonics and Bug Club Independent, which are modern books, with individual, fun and engaging stories for children from reception to Year 6. Mixed Scheme collections, our super time-saving range, ideal for refreshing existing scheme stocks or starting afresh, have been extended this year to include Phonic Phases and Phonic Banded collections. These are perfect for teachers looking to embed Letters and Sounds through home reading. 

As more schools are asking for Key Stage 2 schemes, we have extended our range to include Mixed Oxford collections for Key Stage 2, banded from Brown to Dark Red+, which provide a superb mix from series such as Greatest Stories, TreeTops' inFact, Chucklers and Graphic Texts. We're really pleased to include Reflect, Oxford's emotionally powerful stories that make children think. Rising Stars Reading Planet for Key Stage 2 features a wide range of vivid and exciting fact and fiction books.

Maverick's Reading scheme is brand new and ratified by the author of Book Bands for Guided Reading, Suzanne Baker, and is a super addition to our range.

Finally, for schools looking to top up reading scheme stock with books to support the Accelerated Reader™ programme, we supply ready-made AR levelled sets of mixed reading scheme books. This includes AR Intervention collections for older, struggling readers.

Bug Club Phonics Bug Club Independent Explore with Biff, Chip and Kipper Collins Big Cat
Engage Literacy Ransom Reading Stars Reading Planet The Maverick Reading Scheme
Project X Origins Hero Academy All Stars Story Sparks
inFact Chucklers Greatest Stories Reflect