Choosing reading schemes for schools: 11 key factors to consider

Choosing reading schemes for schools can feel like a difficult process, with potentially endless research and a wide variety of schemes to choose from. In this post we’re highlighting 11 key factors to consider, and how they might affect the final decision. 

What are the key factors to consider when reviewing reading schemes for schools?

1. Whole-school scheme vs a ‘mix and match’ approach

Whilst there can be advantages to having one reading scheme across a whole school, legacy set-ups can mean that replacing a whole scheme for another can pose a difficult and costly problem. Therefore, if you already have a KS1 phonics scheme in place, and only want a complementary KS2 scheme, not all providers allow for flexibility and a seamless experience for learners.

At Reading Planet, by October 2023, we will have more than 750 books across KS1 and KS2 (new books are landing from July through to October), all also available as eBooks. Our scheme is entirely flexible, in that you can mix and match with other schemes and slot right in next to it. Our books can also be used for whole-class, group or independent reading at home - with physical books or eBooks - lending plenty of options to every school situation.

2. Support and extra materials

There are more constraints on teachers’ time (and budgets) than ever. Choosing a scheme that provides additional materials and easy-to-use interface are critical. Reading at home is also a key component to supporting learners with their reading development, so additional parental support should ideally be included.

For each Reading Planet book, teachers will be able to save time and plan lessons with ease by using:

  • an accompanying Comprehension and Vocabulary focused worksheet to develop skills in these areas
  • A useful summary of each book
  • Highlighted key words to support vocabulary teaching
  • Clearly outlined curriculum coverage

Parents can also make use of in-book guidance and quizzes, as well as motivational rewards to keep the process fun and engaging.

3. EBooks vs printed books

EBooks can sometimes be a little ‘marmite’ - with some people preferring to stick to traditional printed books and others enjoying the convenience of their digital counterpart. However, the option of having both for different uses offers the best blend for most schools.

Reading Planet Online allows teachers to take advantage of interactive elements in the eBooks, from audio to highlighting key words, zooming in and making notes. It also gives access to additional resources to teachers and parents alike.

4. Try before you buy

As with many other products and services, it can be really difficult to judge what something will be like until you actually use it. Descriptions and FAQs can get you some of the way there, but ultimately the best way to assess a reading scheme is to try it out using a trial period. 

Not every scheme offers this, but as an example, any school can trial Reading Planet for free for 30 days. There’s no auto-enrolment, so once the trial has ended, you won’t be accidentally charged if you choose not to continue but forget to cancel.

5. Don’t forget the fun!

We know there can be some negative associations with reading at school, particularly from learners that find the process a little more challenging than their peers, or those that aren’t quite comfortable with a learning environment.

For all learners, associating reading with enjoyment and fun is critical, and the fundamental reason why at Reading Planet we purposefully design our books not to feel like reading scheme books. Not only are they made from different paper and formatted to not feel like reading scheme books, we keep the emphasis on engagement. This means our books contain gripping stories and relatable characters that learners will genuinely want to follow and find out more as their skills develop.

6. Authors and editors

There are many talented writers and editors involved in the process of creating reading scheme books, but everyone takes a different approach. Some are more angled towards the learning process and ticking off certain areas that need to be covered, whilst others take a broader approach.

Reading Planet works with a team of award-winning children’s authors and illustrators to create books that capture the magic of ‘real’ children’s books.

For example, Tony Bradman edits our high-interest, low reading level Astro series. As well as having written more than 100 books for children, selling millions of copies worldwide, Tony has won multiple awards in his 40-year career. 

7. National Curriculum

Ultimately, all learners need to meet or exceed the standards of the national reading tests and become fluent, confident readers by the end of KS2.

Of all the major reading schemes available, only Reading Planet was specifically created for the National Curriculum. All of our books have been very carefully levelled to age-related expectations in consultation with literacy experts and provide teaching resources designed to support teachers to achieve those critical outcomes required. 

8. Celebrating difference in books

We all know that we’re much more likely to engage with something if it relates to us in some way, either by a character that looks like us or an experience that mirrors something we’ve seen for ourselves. 

There’s huge variety in the way different schemes address this, but often schemes developed some time ago, often 30-40 years ago, understandably focused on a version of life that isn’t reflected today. 

That’s why when Reading Planet was developed, it was done in a very conscious way to reflect the real, modern world we live in. This isn’t a token box we’re ticking - we work closely with diversity and inclusion experts, literacy experts, authors, partners, and schools to create books for ALL learners.

‘In our catchment area, children don’t have many outside experiences, so the stories strike the right balance of being relevant and relatable, but humorous and engaging too. We have found that the books are engaging for the children and link to their interests - the children relate to the characters.’ - Griffin Park Primary School

9. Cost effective

There are endless demands on a school budget, and reading schemes are just a small part of that. That’s why they need to provide a measurable return on investment, in getting learners successfully through their reading tests and providing schools with a supportive, easy to use system to implement.

Most of the major reading schemes are competitive, but we know from school feedback that Reading Planet provides excellent value for money, especially as we can create a bespoke package for all budgets. 

For example, an unlimited, whole school, 1-year subscription to Reading Planet Online for KS2 is only £349 + VAT. That’s access to 192 books and quizzes, teaching notes, audio for Astro books, reporting and teacher mark-up tools!

10. Book levelling

Book levelling is critically important, and every scheme has a different methodology. 

Reading Planet books are levelled by literacy and phonics experts according to accepted book-banding criteria and age-related expectations of the current National Curriculum. Every strand of the series is built on the same progression so you can use them in parallel. 

As mentioned previously, our books and teacher resources are designed to provide practice in the full range of skills required to meet and exceed the expected standards of the national reading tests and to create fluent, confident readers by the end of KS2.

11. Research and expertise

Reading Planet was developed by Hodder Education. As a publisher, Hodder has been producing some of the world’s best books for more than 150 years and developed intricate expertise in the learning and teaching processes.

Hodder Education and Rising Stars undertake their own specialist research to inform everything they do, ensuring that Reading Planet is as relevant and useful to young learners - and their teachers - as possible.

For example, our 2022 study with Nottingham Trent University on academic wellbeing and attitudes to learning of KS2 learners revealed that the majority of children surveyed feel some vulnerability about their capability to learn. So when we were planning to add more books to our KS2 list, ways we could sustain reader engagement and ensure the experience of reading felt enjoyable were paramount.

If you’re interested and would like to find out more about Reading Planet, and perhaps set up a free 30-day trial at your school, you can do so quickly and easily here.

Hamish Baxter is a Senior Commissioning Editor at Hodder Education and is the KS2 lead publisher for Reading Planet.


English, English and Literacy, english teaching, key stage 1, key stage 2, KS1, ks2, national curriculum, phonics, Reading, Reading and Ebooks, Rising Stars Reading Planet

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