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Reading schemes, Levels, and Stages

Learn about reading schemes (also known as reading programmes), Oxford Levels, and Stages, and find out how they’re used to help your child progress with reading at school.

What are reading schemes?

A reading scheme is a series of books that have been carefully written to help children learn to read. When your child is learning to read, it’s important to give them books that are at the right level of challenge.

Books that are too hard can be frustrating – and can risk putting a child off reading. Books that are very easy can sometimes be fun, but they’re not the best way to improve reading skills.

Find out more on the blog: What are reading schemes and why do they matter?

What are Oxford Levels and Book Bands?

In UK schools, Book Bands are used across different reading schemes to indicate the reading level of each book. You will see our Oxford Levels alongside the Book Band colours on each Oxford Reading Tree book. As children need a different type of support at home, we also have Read with Oxford Stages on our home learning books.

Find out which Oxford Levels, Book Bands, and Read with Oxford Stages are most suitable for your child by reading our descriptions and seeing example pages from each Level:

Oxford Level 1

Level 1 books are for children who are just beginning to learn about books and reading. At this stage, your child is likely to be learning the alphabet at nursery, and may be able to recognise some simple, common words.

Some books are wordless, with pictures telling the story. Wordless books provide lots to talk about, and help your child learn how to hold a book and turn the pages.

Approximate age: 3–4 years old
School: Nursery
Equivalent to: Book Band Lilac | Read with Oxford Stage 1

Taken from The Hedgehog. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 1 >

Oxford Level 1+

Level 1+ books are for children who are just beginning to use simple phonics to read words like ‘sat’ and ’pin’. The books use words that are familiar and predictable, and the pictures help convey the meaning of the story.

Approximate age: 4–5 years old
School: Reception
Equivalent to: Book Band Pink | Read with Oxford Stage 1

Taken from A Dragon Balloon. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 1+ >

Oxford Level 2

By this stage, your child will be able to use their knowledge of letters and sounds to work out new words, though they may still need help.

Pictures are used to help convey story meaning, and sentences are still mostly short and straightforward. Stories become very slightly more complex as your child becomes more comfortable reading more words.

Approximate age: 4–5 years old
School: Reception
Equivalent to: Book Band Red | Read with Oxford Stage 2

Taken from Jack. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 2 >

Oxford Level 3

At this level, your child will be using phonics to help them read slightly more complicated words, including words with common digraphs like ‘ee’, ‘oa’, ‘ch’, and ‘th’. They will use phonics knowledge to work out less familiar words.

Approximate age: 4–5 years old
School: Reception
Equivalent to: Book Band Yellow | Read with Oxford Stage 2

Taken from The Right Home. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 3 >

Oxford Level 4

By Level 4, your child will be using their phonics knowledge to work out words quickly, and will know a range of common tricky words (like ‘said’, ‘some’, and ‘what’) by sight. They are likely to be more confident in giving their opinion about stories and non-fiction texts.

Approximate age: 4–6 years old
School: Reception and Year 1
Equivalent to: Book Band Light Blue | Read with Oxford Stage 3

Taken from The Stinky Plant. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 4 >

Oxford Level 5

By Level 5, your child will start learning alternative spellings for the sounds in words – for example, they will learn that the letters ‘ou’ can be pronounced like ‘ow’ or ‘oo’.

Level 5 books may contain words with apostrophes, such as ‘didn’t’ and ‘wasn’t’. They will also introduce children to unusual words that extend their vocabulary, like ‘terrible’ instead of ‘bad’.

Approximate age: 5–6 years old
School: Year 1
Equivalent to: Book Band Green | Read with Oxford Stage 3

Taken from The Parachute. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 5 >

Oxford Level 6

Stories in Level 6 are longer and more complex than in previous levels.

By Level 6, your child will often notice when their reading does not make sense, and they will go back to correct themselves without being asked to. They will be able to work out many words automatically without sounding them out. They will be working on more alternative spellings for different sounds – for example, they may know that the ‘igh’ sound can also be spelled ‘ie’, ‘y, or ‘i’.

Approximate age: 5–6 years old
School: Year 1
Equivalent to: Book Band Orange | Read with Oxford Stage 4

Taken from Who Eats Who. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 6 >

Oxford Level 7

At Level 7, most children can read out loud quite fluently and can usually find the answer to a question within a section of text. Your child will get used to words with unusual phonics patterns, such as ‘beautiful’, ‘eye’, and ‘any’. Words with several syllables will often be included.

Approximate age: 5–6 years old
School: Year 1 and Year 2
Equivalent to: Book Band Turquoise | Read with Oxford Stage 4

Taken from Planet Exis. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 7 >

Oxford Level 8

At Level 8, children are generally more confident in their reading and know most common, non-decodable tricky words. Level 8 stories are often split into chapters. Your child is likely to enjoy choosing which books to read, often reading some of the text in order to help them decide.

Approximate age: 6–7 years old
School: Years 2 and 3
Equivalent to: Book Band Purple and Brown | Read with Oxford Stage 5

Taken from Mini Marvels. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 8 >

Oxford Level 9

Once your child is at Level 9, they will be able to read most words automatically, either silently or out loud. With non-fiction texts, they will be able to use features like indexes, headings, and photo captions to find information.

Approximate age: 6–8 years old
School: Years 2 and 3
Equivalent to: Book Band Gold and Brown | Read with Oxford Stage 5

Taken from False Alarms. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 9 >

Oxford Level 10

By Level 10, your child will be building up their stamina to read longer texts. They will use parts of unfamiliar words to help them work out the meaning (for example, spotting that ‘clarify’ is a bit like ‘clear’ so ‘clarify’ means ‘to make clear’).

Approximate age: 6–8 years old
School: Years 2 and 3
Equivalent to: Book Band White and Brown | Read with Oxford Stage 6

Taken from A Life in the Sky. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 10 >

Oxford Level 11

Children at Level 11 usually show a good understanding of what they are reading, and automatically take account of punctuation when they read. Your child may begin to read between the lines more confidently, working out information that may only be hinted at in the text.

Approximate age: 6–8 years old
School: Years 2 and 3
Equivalent to: Book Band Lime and Brown | Read with Oxford Stage 6

Taken from Tasty Travels. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 11 >

Oxford Level 12

By Level 12, your child will be using clues from a text to help them work out the meaning of words. They will use inference and empathy to understand the narrator’s feelings.

Approximate age: 6–8 years old
School: Years 2 and 3
Equivalent to: Book Band Lime+ and Grey | Read with Oxford Stage 6

Taken from The Crayfish Catchers. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 12 >

Oxford Level 13

By Level 13, your child will probably be able to read for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. They will be learning to skim and scan non-fiction texts to find information and answer questions.

Approximate age: 7–8 years old
School: Year 3
Equivalent to: Book Band Grey

Taken from Peter and the Wolf. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 13 >

Oxford Level 14

Children at Level 14 can read increasingly complex stories and non-fiction confidently and fluently. Your child will be able to express an opinion about a story or non-fiction book, and may sometimes back up their opinion with quotations from the text.

Approximate age: 7–9 years old
School: Years 3 and 4
Equivalent to: Book Band Grey

Taken from Grace the Pirate. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 14 >

Oxford Level 15

By Level 15, your child will sometimes independently read several chapters of a book in one go. They may be introduced to more technical language and demanding vocabulary. At school, your child will probably be learning to understand charts and diagrams in non-fiction texts.

Approximate age: 8–9 years old
School: Year 4
Equivalent to: Book Band Dark Blue

Taken from Animal Tales. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 15 >

Oxford Level 16

At Level 16, your child will be more confident in using inference, learning about characters through dialogue as well as direct description. They may be able to retell a story from the point of view of a different character.

Approximate age: 8–10 years old
School: Years 4 and 5
Equivalent to: Book Band Dark Blue

Taken from Exploring the Deep. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 16 >

Oxford Level 17

At this level, children can read quite demanding novels and non-fiction independently and fluently. Your child will be able to quote from a text in order to explain their thoughts about it.

Approximate age: 9–10 years old
School: Year 5
Equivalent to: Book Band Dark Red

Taken from Simon Barbecue. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 17 >

Oxford Level 18

By Level 18, your child will be introduced to more unusual and sophisticated vocabulary, with words like ‘interference’ and ‘crescendo’. They will sometimes be able to work out the point of view of a particular story or non-fiction text.

Authors writing at this level use many diverse styles, and your child is likely to react very differently to different books they are reading.

Approximate age: 9–11 years old
School: Years 5 and 6
Equivalent to: Book Band Dark Red

Taken from Grimm. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 18 >

Oxford Level 19

By now, your child will be reading books and non-fiction texts that are very varied in structure, tone, language, and approach. They will be able to detect and discuss some of the ways in which an author’s writing can influence how readers feel about a book.

Approximate age: 10–11 years old
School: Year 6
Equivalent to: Book Band Dark Red 

Taken from The Rise of the Empty People. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 19 >

Oxford Level 20

At Level 20, children can read challenging, age-appropriate novels and non-fiction texts independently and fluently. They know that there may be different layers of meaning in a text, and will be able to identify some underlying themes and ideas.

Approximate age: 10–11 years old
School: Year 6
Equivalent to: Book Band Dark Red 

Taken from Selkie Summer. Browse free eBooks at Oxford Level 20 >

How do I find the right reading level for my child?

Every child learns to read at a different pace, so it’s important to give them books at the right level to support their progress. Your child may be bringing books home from school that have levels or colour bands on them, or you can ask your child’s teacher which level your child is reading at school.

Alternatively, you can use this simple test to find the right Oxford Level (used in schools) or Read with Oxford Stage (used at home) for your child. The test is designed for children approximately 3–7 years old.

Learning to read at school

Many primary schools in the UK use either Oxford Reading Tree or Read Write Inc. Phonics to teach children to read. You can find out more about both of these reading schemes by following the links below.

Oxford Reading Tree

Used to teach over 30 million children around the world to read, and love to read.

Read Write Inc. Phonics

A rigorous step-by-step programme for teaching phonics.

 

How to help at home