Reading level descriptors

Below are the key characteristics of the different levels for reading.

You can use these to support your child, but they should not be used to make a decision about what level they are at as this is not the sole contributor.


Working at Level 1 children can:

  • Identify the main events and characters in stories, and find specific information in simple texts.
  • Make predictions showing an understanding of ideas, events and characters.
  • Recognise the main elements that shape different texts eg lists, comic strips with speech in bubbles, ‘once upon a time’ to show the start of a fairy tale.
  • Explore the effect of patterns of language and repeated words and phrases
  • Select books for personal reading and give reasons for their choices
  • Visualise and comment on events, characters and ideas, making imaginative links to their own experiences
  • Distinguish fiction and non-fiction texts and the different purposes for reading them


Working at Level 2 (a typical Year 2 child) children can:

  • Read independently and with increasing fluency longer and less familiar texts
  • Give some reasons why things happen or characters change
  • Explain organisational features of texts, including alphabetical order, layout, diagrams, captions, hyperlinks and bullet points
  • Explore how particular words are used, including words and expressions with similar meanings eg ‘gasped’ and ‘shouted’
  • Read whole books on their own, choosing and explaining their choices
  • Explain their reactions and feelings to texts, commenting on important aspects eg which of the characters would be a good friend and why?


Working at Level 3 (a typical Year 3 or Year 4 child) children can:

  • Work out a character’s reasons for behaviour from their actions eg why did the character start to shiver?
  • Explain how ideas are developed in non-fiction texts eg what was this section all about and how was it different to this section?
  • In non-fiction texts, use knowledge of different organisational features of texts to find information effectively, eg use headings and sub-headings, captions and the index
  • In fiction texts, explain how writers use language to create images and atmosphere, eg why did the writer describe the dog as ‘bouncing around like a ball’?
  • Read extensively favourite authors or genres and experiment with other types of text
  • Explore why and how writers write eg through online contact with authors


Working at Level 4 (a typical Year 5 or Year 6 child) children can:

  •  Understand underlying themes, causes and points of view
  • Recognise different ways to argue, persuade, mislead and sway the reader eg read some promotional leaflets and the websites before you go on a day-trip to a theme park or museum!
  • Compare different types of narrative and information texts and identify how they are structured eg compare different instructions, compare the clever ways Jacqueline Wilson structures her stories
  • Explore how writers use language for different effects, eg why did the writer repeat this word?
  • Read extensively and discuss personal reading with others – this is one of the reasons why reading aloud and sharing ideas with others is important, even for older children
  • Compare how writers present experiences and use language eg compare the Horrid Histories series with a typical non-fiction book and even a fictional story set in Victorian times


Working at Level 5

  •  Typically, children can continue to develop the areas suggested for Level 4, but at a deeper level and for more challenging texts, eg Children able to understand underlying themes, causes and points of view should begin to ‘read between the lines’ and find evidence for their interpretation