Band aid in colour

5th March 2004 at 00:00
The right reading resources and a good banding system are the clues to helping children progress at Year3. Diana Hinds reports

Moving up to the juniors is a decisive moment for many seven-year-olds in terms of their reading. Those with confidence, and a good grounding, will relish launching into "chapter books" as they read increasingly for meaning, not just to decode.

But a significant number of children, even those who seemed quite comfortable with a key stage 1 reading scheme, struggle to make this transition. The result is an overall dip in reading achievement at the start of KS2.

"The children who lose confidence in Year 3 and are given inappropriate reading material are the ones who suffer - and many of them don't really pick up," says Shirley Bickler, literacy consultant and co-author of Bridging Bands for Guided Reading, published by the Institute of Education at the University of London.

Part of the problem lies in an abrupt discontinuity in book provision at KS2, she says. Children reared on safe reading schemes at KS1 suddenly find themselves faced with much longer fiction books that use more sophisticated language, smaller fonts and fewer illustrations. Many children are simply not ready for this.

In an attempt to ease their passage, Bridging Bands for Guyided Reading extends the system of banding books by colour to match them to guided reading groups of different abilities in KS2. This approach in the Institute's Book Bands (now in its third edition), has already proved popular with teachers at KS1. The new volume encompasses children working towards level two (orange, band six), through to those working within level three (lime, band 11). It not only lists available books for each band, but includes sample guided-reading lessons and reviews of some guided-reading series.

KS2 teachers have not, in the main, been trained to teach reading. Many assume that if most children have reached level two in the previous year, reading should not present too many difficulties.

Wendy Brown encountered this problem when she became literacy co-ordinator at Christ Church Bentinck School, Westminster. "The teachers at KS2 had no idea how to analyse children's reading," she says.

So, in addition to introducing a system of colour banding, she bought a new reading scheme for KS2 that helped teachers make "running records" (similar to those made at KS1) for all children whose reading was potentially a concern. "For the first time," she says, "they had a precise picture of what each child could and could not do."

Once a teacher knows what a child is capable of, he or she can select books for guided reading that present the right degree of challenge, provided the school has a sufficiently good selection to choose from. Many schools, Shirley Bickler argues, need a far greater variety of reading material for this age group, fine-tuned for different abilities, and including a good deal more non-fiction.

"In our view, the dip in reading is entirely to do with resourcing," she says. "Year 3 teachers need to be making the case for these books. It's about resourcing for diversity."

Bridging Bands for Guided Reading Tel: 020 7612 6050Email: ioe@johnsmith.co.uk

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