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By Catherine Baker, posted on 10th July 2020

Oxford Levels: How to support your 7–11-year-old’s reading development

Hello! I’m Catherine Baker, and I’m an editor and consultant. For over twenty years I’ve been thinking about how to make books that will really help children learn how to read.

In this video and blog post, I’ll talk about how using levelled reading books all the way through Primary school can help your child. You’ll find some recommended levelled readers, ideal for 7–11-year-olds at the end of the blog post.

Video: How to support your 7–11 year old’s reading development with Oxford Levels

Why use levelled reading books?

Levelled reading books are specially designed to increase children’s reading skills and experience in gradual, supportive steps. At the very beginning of learning to read, it’s pretty clear how levelled reading books help. But what about when children have learnt the basics? They can read – but do they really have the full range of reading skills they need, for all the learning they’ll be doing throughout Primary and Secondary school and beyond?

Older children need to be able to think, talk about and learn from what they read. Carefully levelled books – using a system like Oxford Levels – can help coax these skills out.

Challenging and supporting young readers

The challenge is there, because levelled reading books are written to gently stretch children’s reading skills. The team at Oxford thinks hard about language choices, so that both vocabulary and sentence structures gradually become more complex. It also means focusing on the conceptual challenge – as children develop as readers, they can cope with increasingly complex plots, ideas and story structures.

The gradual increase in complexity is very supportive too, because it gives children the chance to think about what they’re learning as they read – so their comprehension skills and enjoyment of reading both improve. They’re less likely to get stuck and end up feeling frustrated. It also helps that, compared with children’s novels you might get from the library or bookshop, levelled reading books tend to be shorter and more manageable. They pack a lot of reading value into quite a small space – which is really rewarding for children who might not have huge reading stamina yet.

How to help at home

Of course, any reading that children choose to do is valuable, but sometimes children get stuck on a really long, hard book that’s just too difficult – or they lose confidence and get equally stuck on a series or author that’s not really challenging them at all. When children get stuck in either of those ways, it’s harder for them to learn from their reading – or enjoy it. If your child seems a bit stuck with their reading, have a look at the Oxford Levels guidance on Oxford Owl to pinpoint the right level for them. You can then find a selection of books at that level in the free eBook library.

When your child’s reading books at the right level – books that can both challenge and support them – they will learn more. They’re not just reading, but understanding – and ultimately that means they’re more likely to enjoy reading, and get better at it!

More from Oxford Owl

Levelled readers for Key Stage 2 (age 7–11)

Each of these books have inside cover notes to help children explore the content, further supporting their reading development. All book links go to Amazon.co.uk.

Skelebones (TreeTops inFact)

Level 10 | Age 6–8 | By Ranj Singh, David Semple

Skelebones is a comprehensive look at how our skeleton works with TV’s Dr Ranj Singh.

Buy on Amazon >

Parrots of the Caribbean (TreeTops Chucklers)

Level 11 | Age 6–8 | By Steve Barlow, Steve Skidmore, Jez Tuya

Doghouse Dave is thrown off his ship and left stranded on a desert island, where he meets the wickedest pirates that ever sailed the Caribbean Sea but they are not what they seem. Cast off on this thrilling pirate adventure!

Buy on Amazon >

Double Cross (Alien Adventures)

Level 12 | Age 6–8 | By Tony Bradman

Blast off on the biggest micro-adventure yet with the popular Project X characters Max, Cat, Ant and Tiger and their new robot micro-friend, Eight. Carefully levelled and highly motivating, this book is ideal for independent reading.

Buy on Amazon >

Invasive Species (TreeTops inFact)

Level 13 | Age 7–8 | By Jo Bourne, Adam Howling

What happens when animals and plants are taken out of their natural habitat? It can be a disaster for their new neighbours! Invasive Species investigates the species’ which are threatening to take over.

Buy on Amazon >

The Wind in the Willows (Graphic Texts)

Level 14 | Age 7–8 | By Kenneth Grahame, Claire O’Brien, Daniel Duncan

This graphic retelling of The Wind in the Willows brings a fresh look to a well-loved classic. Life on the river bank is peaceful for Mole, Ratty and Badger until their friend Toad gets a motor car! Can Toad’s friends convince him to stay out of trouble?

Buy on Amazon >

Animal Tails (TreeTops Greatest Stories)

Level 15 | Age 8–9 | By Geraldine McCaughrean, Alex Wilson, David Pavón

Chickens, foxes, horses, tigers, lions and mice this is a marvellous menagerie of tales about tails. Meet Chanticleer the pompous cockerel, Reynard the sneaky fox, the sad Ugly Duckling and many more enduring characters, taken from Chaucer and Hans Christian Anderson and traditional tales from around the world.

Buy on Amazon >

The Trials of Ruby P Baxter

Level 16 | Age 8–10 | By Joanna Nadin, Gemma Correll

In The Trials of Ruby P. Baxter, Ruby has troubles at school, a totally embarrassing dad and a goat for a pet, so life can be very trying. Read all about it in her TOP SECRET diary.

Buy on Amazon >

Georgie and Me (TreeTops Reflect)

Level 17 | Age 9–10 | By Jamila Gavin, Briony Smith

Have you ever wanted something so much that you wished, begged and pleaded every chance you got? That’s how much Abi wants a dog – and then one day Georgie comes bounding into her life, all golden fur and tail-wags. But Abi will need Georgie more than she knows, as she and her best friend start to drift apart.

Buy on Amazon >

Cries of the Parasings (Alien Adventures)

Level 18 | Age 9–11 | By Janice Pimm, Dynamo

The popular Project X characters Max, Cat, Ant and Tiger rip-jump to the next dimension in the hope of finding the Weaver, but instead they find themselves embroiled in a war between two shape shifting races of human-birds. Can the micro-friends help to save the Parasings from the Eagles, or will they be defeated by an even greater threat the Krush?

Buy on Amazon >

The Turtle’s Wish (TreeTops Reflect)

Level 19 | Age 10–11 | By Barbara Laban, Meilo So

Paulina has loved living in Beijing ever since her family moved from England five years ago. But when Xia the box turtle finds Paulina in her favourite city park, she’s feeling lost: uncertain about how to improve her written Chinese, confused about why no-one at school will talk to her and unsure how to go about finding new friends. Then, as Xia’s arrival begins to answer some of her questions, it also brings a new mystery – the mystery of Weiting’s grandfather and the turtle’s wish.

Buy on Amazon >

For the Fallen

Level 20 | Age 10–11 | Illustrated by Patrick Miller, Tim Gibson, Silvio Kiko, Ameorry Luo, Simone D’Armini, Tom Humberstone, Niklas Asker, Emiliano Tanzillo

This emotive collection of poems looks at the harshness of life in the trenches during the First World War, the brutal battlefields of the American Civil War and the senseless charge of the light brigade in the Crimean War. Each poem is told in graphic form, making poems come alive for a modern audience.

Buy on Amazon >

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