Reading Stars and Book Bands

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What are Book Bands?

The Book Bands system is the most popular method used in UK schools for ensuring that children learning to read are provided with suitable readers to develop their literacy skills.

You can find out more about Book Bands elsewhere on this site.

But Book Bands is much more than just a way of levelling books – it covers an entire reading pedagogy. It is a powerful method for teaching children to read.

Reading Stars and Book Bands

Ransom Reading Stars includes book-banded titles in its reading programme. They form the core of the programme.

Reading Stars begins with four levels of synthetic phonics-based readers (based around the UK Government’s ‘Letters and Sounds' programme), followed by books in eleven Book Bands, Pink through to Lime. At the time of writing, 90 book-banded Reading Stars books are available in these eleven bands; six titles are available in each Band.

These titles were all developed in consultation with leading Book Bands expert Shirley Bickler, so you can be sure that they are good, strong, banded readers at the correct level.

Further titles for these Bands and for other Bands (i.e. Lilac, Brown to Dark Red) are currently in development.

Which books are available at each band?
Which order should we read the books in?

Six reading books are currently available at each Book Band (Bands Pink through to Lime).

You can see a complete list of book-banded titles currently available, by Book Band, on this page. The lowest title in each Band is shown first, with the titles listed in increasing order of difficulty, moving gradually up to the highest title in that Band. (This list is for Reading Stars titles only, and excludes Reading Stars Plus and Neutron Stars titles.)

Will more books be available at each band?

Yes. We are developing further titles for the Bands Pink to Lime, as well as for other Bands where titles are not currently available (i.e. Lilac Band and the higher Bands Brown through to Dark Red).

We are currently using a different reading programme. Can we use Ransom Reading Stars books as well?

Yes, absolutely. The Reading Stars programme can be used as a core set of readers to support guided reading, but they can also sit alongside other reading programmes, being used to freshen up existing books and add a little extra interest.

How do I use the book-banded titles with the Reading Stars phonics books?

Currently it is a requirement that all primary schools in English and Wales teach children phonics using a structured, synthetic phonics programme. You can find out more about synthetic phonics elsewhere on this site.

Synthetic phonics-based teaching is invaluable as it gives most children a secure footing in understanding how many of the words in English are built up. This can help enormously with developing their literacy skills.

However, in itself, synthetic phonics will not turn children into real readers. Reading properly requires developing a range of skills that go beyond the simple decoding of written texts. It is Book Bands for guided reading that really give children the opportunity to develop this broader range of reading skills.

Our approach

The approach we have taken in Reading Stars is to offer four levels of readers based around sythentic phonics. These are levels P1 (covering Letters and Sounds Phase 2) up to P4 (covering Letters and Sounds Phase 5). These four levels are dedicated phonics readers, where all words are fully decodable within Letters and Sounds and the primary focus is on decoding the text.

Separately, there are 66 reading books which have all been book-banded for guided reading. These books support the Book Bands Pink to Lime.

The phonics readers and the Book-Banded readers are best regarded as discrete components in the overall reading programme.

The lower level phonics readers (especially the lowest two levels, supporting Letters and Sounds Phases 2 and 3) are very simple, low level texts, sometimes using convoluted sentence structures (to meet the requirement of full decodability). These offer children good practice in decoding a ‘real’ book.

But the higher level phonics texts often use quite complex language (as long as it is fully decodable, of course). This can have odd results, as some words that are very commonly used in English cannot be used, as they are not decodable, but more unusual words which are decodable can be used.

For example, at one phonics level the sentence “They need to keep their wits about them” can’t be said, but “They need to maintain sharp wits” is decodable and therefore acceptable. The latter is verbose and awkward, but since it’s decodable, it can be said. This can result in quite unnatural-sounding phonics texts at the higher levels too.

To contrast, book-banded readers in the lower Bands (especially Pink and Red Bands) focus on natural language that children will easily relate to (e.g. “Look at the sky.”).

The recommendation is that once children have been taught the structured phonics they need to learn, they are introduced to low level book-banded readers, in a guided reading context, where they can begin to develop the broader skills they will need to become real readers (e.g. understanding context, using visual cues, comprehension, etc.).

Will books be available for Lilac band?

Yes. We are currently developing a range of titles for Lilac Band. Contact us with your details and we will let you know as soon as they are available.

Will books be available at higher bands? Which band colours will Ransom be using?

At the moment Ransom Reading Stars titles are only available up to Lime Band (Reading Stars Plus and Neutron Stars, our two series for older reluctant and struggling readers, are available up to Orange Band).

Ransom Reading Stars is still a relatively new reading programme, and at the moment we are busy developing titles for bands above Lime.

Forthcoming titles higher than Lime will be banded according to the following Bands: Brown, Grey, Dark Blue and Dark Red. (Incidentally these colour bands are also used by Pearson Bug Club, Oxford Reading Tree and Rigby Navigator.)

I don’t know the Brown to Dark Red bands. We use different colours. Can you help?

Unfortunately the Book Bands for Guided Reading documentation only provides for bands up to and including Lime. In producing books above Lime Band, different publishers have taken different approaches. Many publishers use Brown to Dark Red, but some have adopted different colours/banding.

Are Ransom Reading Stars books levelled for Reading Recovery?

Yes. All Reading Recovery teachers will be aware of the Reading Stars titles that have been tested and accepted for use in Reading Recovery.