Making Sense of Book Bands

Making Sense of Book Bands


Book Banding is a popular way of organising children’s reading books. It’s a system that allows schools to choose books from a range of reading programmes and know that they are of the same level of difficulty.

There are 19 bands in the Book Banding system for different levels of primary-aged readers. These bands are numbered 0 – 18 but are more frequently referred to by their colours, from Lilac (the first band) to Pearl (the last band). Each band contains fiction and non-fiction books, and some of them also contain poetry and playscripts.

The book band system grades books based on features such as the number of sentences on a page, the number of pages in the book, the complexity of the sentences, and the familiarity of the words and the content of the book – whether it is a well-known story (like a traditional tale) or about a topic children may be unfamiliar with (such as the planetary system).

The system ensures teachers and parents can be confident that children are reading books matched to their current reading ability. Furthermore, the system means that children can develop independent reading habits by choosing suitable books based on their interests and preferences, which helps to foster enjoyment and a love of reading.

Children reading books from bands 1 – 7 (Pink to Turquoise) are early readers who are still developing their understanding of phonics. To reflect this, many books in these bands are written to complement phonics teaching. This means that children can apply their growing phonics knowledge when reading independently or with a teacher or parent.

Sometimes you may find a book that has two book bands marked on the cover. These are called dual-banded books, and they have been written for children whose chronological age is higher than their ‘reading age’. These books tend to be about topics and experiences that are relevant and interesting to children in Key Stage 2, but with words and sentences that best support their current reading level. So, for example, if you found a book with a Pearl (18) and Green (5) label, it would be written for a Year 6 child reading at book band level 5.

There is no hard and fast rule about how long a child should spend reading books from a specific book band. All children are different. New books are constantly being added to each band, which means more books can be purchased to support children who need to spend more time within a band. The range of books is continually expanding to reflect the interests of different children and to make reading as inviting and engaging as possible: graphic novels, comic strips and magazine titles such as National Geographic have recently been added to the range.

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