Posted in reading, Uncategorized

Reading levels – Numbers and colours and bands, oh my!

We’re into the first term of the new school year and pretty soon your Superstar Student will come traipsing home with a new reading book, if they haven’t already!

You may find the book is colour-coded, or it might have a number on it, like 1.5 or 6.3. These relate to the book’s technical difficulty, length, and age-appropriate interest.

The trouble is, there are lots of different reading schemes in schools!

In lower years, you will probably come across the Oxford Reading Tree, and you can find a guide to the levels and their general reading age guides HERE. Prepare to spend lots of time with Biff, Chip and Kipper!

You might also see Collins Big Cat books – you can find a comprehensive guide to what each level involves HERE. Note that this doesn’t give a general reading age.

Another common reading scheme is Bug Club. This scheme has both printed books available for Reception to Year 6, but it also has online books, which have a little bug face within each book that a child has to click and answer a question on that part of the book. If your school uses Bug Club, your child might get sent home with a user name and password to read books online at home.

Many primary schools in the UK have now adopted the Accelerated Reader system, which is where it seems a little more complicated. Accelerated Reader doesn’t have a set of books, but is based on the analysis of many thousands of different books – from Harry Potter to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, chances are that your child can find one of their favourite books in there! Each book is analysed for sentence length, sentence structure and complexity, word count and word difficulty. The book is then given a level – anywhere between 0.1 to 13.5! This level does NOT equate to reading age, so don’t panic if your seven-year-old comes home with a book marked 2.8!

Accelerated Reader is based on two testing levels – an initial online comprehension test, which will give a number range (called the ZPD – Zone of Proximal Development, which gives a guide as to which books would be a suitable challenge for each child) that your child should be given. For example, your child might be given a ZPD of 2.9- 4.0. This enables your child to choose books within this range and be confident that they can read them without a struggle – and also without them being far too easy!

Secondly, each child completes a comprehension multiple choice test on EACH book they read. Scoring 85% or above shows that the text has been understood. These comprehension tests are also taken at school, like the initial online test to assess the ZPD levels (mainly to stop us, as parents, helping with the answers!)

The results of both of these test types are analysed and reports are generated for your child’s teacher to monitor.

Things to look for: If your child is consistently getting 100% in the end of book comprehension, they are finding the books easy and may need to look to a higher level book for a greater challenge. If they are consistently getting much lower than 85% – encourage them to try a lower level book in their ZPD range.

For us as parents, for our Superstars to get the most out of any reading scheme, it’s best to try and read little and often (of course, if you’ve got a bookworm who loves to read every spare minute, that’s great too!) Try and find a time that is suitable for YOUR child – it might be last thing at night, straight after school, after dinner, early in the morning – and get into a routine if possible!

For an added incentive, why not download these FREE reading record bookmarks? There are spaces for you to add stickers, stamps, the date, whatever you like to mark when your Superstars have read. You can find them HERE!

If you’ve got a question about reading levels, or anything else about school for your Key Stage Two child, feel free to drop in to my Instagram or Facebook page, or why not join our Supporting Superstar Students FREE Facebook Group? Of course, you can always add a comment below, or email me – – happy to help in any way I can!

Happy reading!

Posted in holiday, Maths, reading, times tables, Uncategorized

Beating the Summer Slide!

Who doesn’t love a good slide? Even The Teen can be persuaded to let go of the grimace that often accompanies Forced Family Fun if there’s some messing around on slides to be found. But what the heck is the ‘summer slide’?

Unfortunately, the summer slide isn’t a whole heap of fun. It’s the term that refers to the loss of learned skills during the summer holidays. It’s been studied extensively in the USA, where children often have as much as twelve weeks of holidays during the summer months, where studies showed that ALL the children studied lost maths skills equating to 1.8 months of study and spelling skills were set back almost 4 months!

There has been much less research into this learning loss in the UK; however a study in 2016 tested children aged 5-10 in three schools in spelling and word-reading at the end of the summer term, the beginning of the autumn term and seven weeks into the autumn term. Whilst word-reading (individual words only) didn’t deteriorate, spelling did!

Maths skills weren’t tested in this study, but I do know that The Tween easily forgets some maths skills (if you don’t use it, you lose it!)

You don’t have to make the summer holidays school-like to combat the summer slide. I’m a firm believer that our kids NEED the down-time the holidays provide. Keeping our munchkins’ brains active doesn’t mean thrusting a pencil and paper at them and tying them to the kitchen table filling in worksheets!

Here’s a few ways to keep those brains ticking over during the summer holidays!


  • UK libraries run great reading challenges every summer, with posters, stickers, bookmarks and rewards to collect. And it’s free to join in and borrow the books! Pop into your local library or click HERE to find out more.
  • Reading isn’t just about books. Magazines, newspapers, graphic novels, maps, recipes, instruction manuals – that’s all reading. The Tween loves singing karaoke – she’s reading the lyrics!
  • Reading doesn’t even have to involve words on a page or screen – listening to audio books is fantastic as well (and something I recommend to my students with dyslexia – this often enables them to access texts that they find hard to read in book-form.) And if you have the time, reading TO your kids is just as fantastic for their learning when they are competent readers as when they are toddlers. Sharing books YOU love is a great way of inspiring a love of reading in them too.


  • Keep practicing or learning times tables! When I’m asked what’s the MOST important thing a child can work on in maths my answer is always times tables. And it doesn’t have to be incredibly tedious – check out my post HERE on different ways to learn times tables and click HERE to find free downloads of times tables fortune tellers, and HERE for the division facts fortune tellers!
  • Get cooking or baking – following a recipe is FABULOUS for maths skills. From working out whether you’ve got enough ingredients to measuring skills, it’s fabulous. And if you’re anything like The Teen, you can use your multiplying skills to make double the amount of Triple Chocolate Brownies!
  • Use comparison skills when shopping – for example, what’s the best teabag bargain? Supermarkets often put the cost per 100g on shelf labels, so your kids can compare different sizes or brands to find the best bargain.
  • Grab a tape measure and start measuring things – how tall are plants in the garden, how long is the dog’s tail, who can make the tallest pile out of bricks! Can they tell you the answer in centimetres? How about in millimetres? Or metres?

Here’s wishing you and your Superstar Students an AMAZING summer holidays!

Photo by Bruce Warrington on Unsplash