Take reading to the next level: How Oxford Levels promotes progress

Oxford Levelled books use a well-established and expertly researched system to engage children from the start while ensuring continuous skills progression at every stage of their reading journey. OUP Head of publishing Andrea Quincey shares how we can ensure progress through levelling.

Why use levelled books?

Accessing the right level of books can support children’s reading progress as it ensures texts are closely matched with development – and when children read appropriate books, they discover that they can decode the text, and therefore experience success. This feeling of accomplishment is rewarding for them and in turn motivates them to read more, thus progressing their reading skills overall.

So how does Oxford Levels work?

The Oxford Levels system begins at Level 1 and finishes at Level 20, with the levels progressively increasing in difficulty.  For example, Levels 1 to 6 are aimed at children just learning to read, and so the books focus on the early stages of phonics and vocabulary acquisition, and, at higher levels a greater level of complexity is introduced. For example, at Level 19 one option is the retelling of Moby Dick by Geraldine McCaughrean, engaging advanced readers with a classic tale that stretches their abilities.

Where do the books come from?

We work extremely closely with carefully-chosen authors to ensure everything is accounted for. Throughout a text, new concepts are continuously introduced – even the concentration of new vocabulary is pored over with care to ensure equal distribution. It’s crucial that the books are accessible enough so as not to discourage readers, but also stretch them to ensure development.

Working with experienced authors also means that we create age-appropriate resources. It’s vital to make sure that we are raising the right topics and issues at the right age. For example, the new focus on decodable, phonics-based learning has had the exciting outcome that children are becoming stronger readers at a much earlier stage, but this does not necessarily mean that they should be reading books targeted at older children; levelling means that we can provide books that are still topic-appropriate for younger ages but with more sophisticated vocabulary.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum are older children who are less confident readers – they should be able to read topics tailored to their age, not be expected to read the same books as a much younger child, and with levelling, we have far more control over this process than, for example, a library. It’s hugely important for the motivation of older, less confident readers that they can be seen to be reading age-appropriate chapter books that are as exciting as anything their peers are reading and our books are carefully developed to ensure that they reflect the emotional development of a child as well as their development in literacy.

Are you saying children shouldn’t read non-levelled books?

Not at all! While levelled books are an integral part of a child’s reading journey, they should sit alongside and support all kinds of reading from picture books to shared reading or library books, and children should never be discouraged from independent reading.

How do I choose appropriately levelled books for my pupils?

  • Listen to the full Facebook video with Head of English Publishing, Andrea Quincey, further discussing how we can ensure progress through levelled reading books
  • Try using BookMatch to help guide you on book choice. Save time and match each child with the right book – and not just across Oxford programmes, but from hundreds of specially selected children’s books.
  • Find out more about how you can use Oxford Levels on the website

Andrea Quincey is Head of English, Primary, at Oxford University Press and has been developing primary literacy resources for schools for nearly 20 years. She led on the research and creation of the popular Project X series and has more recently been focused on helping schools with the challenges around assessment.

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