How to 'band' books in your school

An introduction:

The thought of grading all of your books onto the correct book band level, can be daunting.  However, with some set aside time and good organisation, this need not be the case.


Below, we have shared how banding was undertaken in a large primary school.  This approach is not without its limitations, but it does enable a school to grade its entire collection quickly and with minimum disruption to children's book borrowing.


This approach also offers the additional benefit of familiarising teachers with the various levels of challenge corresponding to each stage, as well as improving their own skills and confidence.


You will need:

  • Time - ideally half an INSET Day
  • Space - the school hall is ideal
  • Coloured Stickers - available from Librex by colour or set (click here)
  • Acetate Label Covers - available from Librex (click here)
  • 17 Tables - labelled one for each stage/colour
  • A Crate - for books to dispose of


How it works:

  1. Send a letter home to parents, explaining that next week you are going to be collecting in all books for a couple of days in order to reorganise them.  (Also a good time to have a 'book amnesty' where everyone makes an effort to find and return any books belonging to school.)
  2. Collect all books together.
  3. Place a box of coloured stickers on each corresponding table.
  4. Any scheme books, for which you already know the stage (check the spines of scheme books) can be labelled.
  5. Place a small selection of these books on the end of each table to use as benchmarks for difficulty level.
  6. Take each book to be graded and compare it with the benchmark texts to find the best fit. Don't agonise, go with your gut decision - or else you'll be there all day! (To start with the process is slow, but you will become quicker and with a team working together, you will be surprised at how quickly you progress.)
  7. While one group sorts the books onto the correct band table, another group can be sticking the corresponding labels onto each sorted book.
  8. A third group can take the labelled books and add a protective acetate label cover, to stop little fingers removing the coloured labels! 
  9. Books can then be placed on shelves/racks ready for the children to browse.
  10. Whilst sorting through the books, remove any which are the worse for wear and place them in a box/crate.  Afterwards, the literacy subject leader can sort through the books to be disposed of, noting any titles which need re-ordering. 


Next steps:

During the period of time immediately after reorganising the books, you are likely to encounter the odd minor issue.   It is useful for the literacy subject leader to have two boxes: one box for books to discard (to be used as outlined in point 10 above) and a second box for books which need rebanding.   You can almost guarantee that as soon as you have finished sorting the books, lots more will miraculously appear in school, which also need to be banded!  Teachers can send these books as they emerge.


  • There will also be instances of the same book title appearing on different bands, in which case both books should be put in the box for rebanding.
  • There will be some stray books which have escaped the first banding session, so these should be put in the box.
  • There will be some books, which have been graded wrongly. These will become obvious as the new system gets underway.  These will need re-banding.


To start with, the literacy subject leader will have to spend time regularly banding books, but as the system settles it will demand much less time.   In the case of the school mentioned above, it took the best part of a year for everything to bed in, after which time the system ran easily with little maintenance.


Longer term maintenance:

  • How you will display your books?  If you have some low level wall space, in corridors for example, consider storing your books in racks (we recommend the holders supplied by Librex) so the covers are visible.  As well as looking attractive, this raises the profile and status of books in your school.
  • Occasionally check your book stock for gaps at particular levels.  So, if you identify a need for more books at Stage 11 Lime, for example, you could order £100 worth from a wholesaler, who will be able to supply books at the correct level.  When they arrive at school they can be labelled.   Perhaps some older children could be trained to to this.
  • Someone needs to keep a constant eye on the quality of the books and ensure that worn or damaged books are replaced.

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