Book reviews - learning to read - Collins Big Cat

What is Collins Big Cat?

  • Over 800 books for 3-11 year olds.
  • From early phonic development to fluent reading, Collins Big Cat is a whole-school reading programme that provides complete support for primary reading.
  • Foster a lifelong love of reading with hundreds of book-banded readers featuring beautiful illustrations and stunning photographs for every step of a child’s reading journey.
  • High-quality fiction and non-fiction includes a variety of genres.
  • The range of targeted Big Cat strands ensures readers of all needs and abilities are supported. 
  •  Readers are matched to Reading Recovery and quizzed for Accelerated Reader.
Collins Big Cat Inform
Collins Big Cat has 7 bands for Key Stage 2, ages 7-11. With over 120 books each band has an equal amount of Fiction and Non-Fiction readers that support the 2014 curriculum. Different book sizes, illustrations, characters and genre helps Big Cat match the different interests in the classroom and engage all readers. The books I have reviewed are from the Inform range of non-fiction books. The range of titles is fantastic - there are books here to interest every child. Each topic has been carefully selected to fit with the National Curriculum for the year, and the engaging presentation and enjoyable text means that children will find real pleasure in reading these books. There are plenty of general interest books to get children reading for pleasure. All the books include a glossary, which helps to extend children's vocabulary, and an index to help them find their way round the book and develop their own research skills. The presentation is superb, with attractive covers, good quality paper, wonderful photos, clear diagrams and fact boxes, all laid out clearly. "Ideas for Reading" at the end of every book is packed with ideas get the full benefit from the book and to extend learning. The books get longer band by band and by Band 18, they are substantial (and highly informative) books of 80 pages. A fantastic classroom resource and also good for children to use at home. At March 2019, the bands contain the following:
Copper – 36 books in the band
Topaz – 36 books in the band
Ruby – 36 books in the band
Emerald – 36 books in the band
Sapphire – 36 books in the band
Diamond – 36 books in the band
Pearl – 40 books in the band

Lilac/Band 0 

Learning opportunities - Locate title and open front cover. Relate narrative to own experience. Retell narrative in own words.
Wordless books. Illustration provides full support for telling story/narrative.
16 pages. Approximate word count 0.

  • The Ugly Duckling is a wordless traditional tale which includes a summary in pictures of a swan's life cycle plus some excellent teaching resources.
  • Sound Walk is full of pictures to encourage children to discuss what they see, with small pictures on each page to stimulate discussion.
  • What’s in the Egg? is a wordless information book looking at a range of eggs through excellent colour photos; it includes life cycle pictures for additional learning.
  • The Owl and the PussycatThis illustrated wordless version of the poem “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear is told through the beautiful artwork of award-winning illustrator Polly Dunbar.
  • How To Make a Scarecrow: This wordless instruction text by celebrity gardener Kim Wilde shows how to make a scarecrow. A fun book with a practical application.

Pink/ A Band 1A

Learning opportunities - Locate title. Know that left page comes before right. Can turn pages appropriately. Start to match spoken word to printed word (one-to-one correspondence). Confirm this matching using a few known words or letters. Work out the storyline from the illustrations and repeated language patterns. 
Simple, highly predictable text with familiar objects/actions in the same place on each page. One repetitive, whole-sentence structure that includes at least one high-frequency word. Reasonably large font size with clear spaces between words. 1–2 lines of text per page. Illustrations that provide full and direct support for the text and are well separated from it.
16 pages Approximate word count 14–20.

  • Guinea Pigs: Where Do the Guinea Pigs Go At Night?
  • In the Garden: A simple story about two boys and the different places they to play in the garden.
  • Pam Napsa simple story with a familiar setting. Each book has a simple sentence on one page, accompanied by a 3/4 page illustration and faced with a full page illustration; the illustrations help decoding and are attractive and relevant.
  • Map Man is a fiction story starring a superhero.
  • Pushing and Pulling This simple non-fiction recount demonstrates different types of pushing and pulling in a simple way for young children to start to understand science concepts.
  • Sip It, Dip It, Tap It is a simple well-illustrated non-fiction book with phonic suggestions to enhance learning.
  • Teeth has very simple text and colourful photos, plus phonic ideas for teaching.

Pink B/Band 1B

Learning opportunities: As Pink A but with the following progression: Use some letters together with meaning to read the text, including CVC words. Match spoken to printed word (one-to-one correspondence) across 2–3 lines of print. Show some awareness of mismatches between reading attempts and text.
As Pink A but with the following progression: Natural language following children’s speech patterns. 1–2 repetitive, whole-sentence structures that each include at least one high-frequency word.
16 pages Approximate word count 20 - 30.

  • The Boy Who Cried Wolf A witty retelling, in very simple language, of the shepherd boy who decides to play a trick on the people in his village.
  • Splash! A story with a predictable structure and patterned language about a mother and daughter out for a very rainy walk.
  • Wheels: This non-fiction picture book takes a look at all sorts of wheels. : This non-fiction picture book takes a look at all sorts of wheels.
  • GET UP, TOM! is a story with predictable text and patterned language, with plenty of ideas for reading plus a story map.
  • In the Sea is a non-fiction report with superb photographs.
  • Dig it is a non-fiction book, part of the Chant and Chatter Strand for phonics; again there are lots of reading suggestions which really extend the value of the book.
  • In the Net! A simple non-fiction book, with lots of excellent football skill photos plus teaching ideas.

 Red A/Band 2A 

Learning opportunities: Consolidate secure control of one-to-one matching on a wide range of texts. Solve simple words by blending phonemes from left to right and check for meaning, correct syntax, i.e. does it make sense and sound right? Begin to notice own errors. Start to read in a more phrased manner while maintaining track of the print.
Slightly longer, highly predictable text involving familiar objects and actions. Repetitive sentence/phrase patterns that include high-frequency words and simple words that children can solve by blending phonemes following children’s speech patterns. Simple story development (fiction text). Possibly more than one print format (non-fiction).
16 pages  Approximate word count 30–40.

  • Best Bird is a simple story, with predictable structure and patterned language, about finding our own strength. Owl thinks he is the best at everything, but he keeps meeting other birds who are better than him. What is Owl best at?
  • What’s Inside? is a non-fiction picture book that takes a close-up look at what can be found inside...
  • Puff the Pup is a simple story with a familiar setting The inclusion of a story map allows children to recount the story in their own words.
  • Nests helps with early phonics as well as being a useful beginner non-fiction text which shows some of the places nests are built.
  • The Fox and the Stork: Band 02A/Red A (Collins Big Cat) is a traditional story, fulfilling National Curriculum requirements to teach this genre. There are lots of ideas for reading.
  • Fantastic Yak is an enjoyable fiction story for Letters and Sounds.

Red B/Band 2B

Learning opportunities: As Red A but offering slightly more challenge.
As Red A but offering slightly more challenge.
16 pages. Approximate word count  40 - 60.

  • It Is Hidden is a phonics reader for Letters and Sounds and the back cover clearly shows the phonemes covered; the book is Phase 3.
  • Paddington: Weather It's lovely to see this much-loved character telling a story about all different types of weather.
  • Bot on the Moon A simple fantasy story to encourage children's imaginations.
  • BOOM, BOOM Discover different types of drums from around the world in this fun, decodable non-fiction book
  • My Exercise DiaryBig Cat offers so much variety and here is another different approach which can be used to encourage children to keep their own exercise diary.
  • Art in the WoodsThis non-fiction instruction book shows children how materials found in the wood, including pine cones, leaves and twigs, can be used to make their own miniature wood art project. Another book which can be used in a practical way.
  • Paddington: The Missing SandwichHere he is again in a humorous story - children may well be able to guess where Paddington's sandwich is!

Yellow/Band 3

Learning opportunities: Follow print with eyes, finger-pointing only at points of difficulty. Take more note of punctuation for grammar and oral language rhythms.  Cross-check all sources of information while reading, and sometimes self-correct. Note familiar words and phonemes and use these to get to unknown words.
Repetition of phrase patterns, ideas and vocabulary, and variation of sentence structure.
Storylines include episodes in a time sequence and framework of familiar experiences.
Some literary conventions, familiar oral language structures, illustrations support the text
quite closely. Non-fiction texts use personal experience and children’s language patterns.
16 pages Approximate word count 50–100. 

  • Peas, Please Where do peas come from? How do they grow and how do they get from the field to our dinner plates? All these questions and more are answered in this informative and photographic journey of the pea.
  • Diggety Dog is busy digging in this humorous rhyming story. Big Cat make good use of different types of illustrations, to ensure the books look different and appeal to children with their variety.
  • In the Frog Bog This Phonics book for Letters and Sounds covers adjacent consonants with short vowel phonemes. The frogs sing cheep but Little Frog barks gruff.
  • The Baby Turtle This photographic non-fiction book tracks the life of a turtle. Initially meeting the mother, we stay with her eggs and follow a hatched baby turtle along the dangerous sands to the sea. A story of survival, the turtle returns to the beach to lay its own eggs - ideal to support nature studies.
  • The Wind A non-chronological report which will help children observe the world around them, with lots of reading ideas to further this.
  • The Little Egg Find out what happens to the little egg in this patterned story (another different style of writing, showing how comprehensive Big Cat is, and how good at introducing different genres), filled with colourful illustrations by Shoo Rayner.
  • It Was a Cold Dark Night A map of the forest allows children to track the story - a useful learning idea.

 Blue/Band 4 

Learning opportunities: Move through text attending to print, meaning, and sentence structure flexibly. Self-correct more often, rereading to enhance phrasing and clarify precise meaning. Solve new words using print information and understanding of the text. Identify constituent parts of unfamiliar two-syllable words to read correctly. Discuss content in a way that indicates understanding. Manage a variety of genres.
Variation in sentence patterns and content. Literary language with natural language. Repeated language patterns are longer, or act as refrains. Up to six or eight lines of text on a page and more similar-looking words appearing. Stories have more events.Non-fiction has abstract terms/impersonal sentence structures. Pictures support storyline rather than convey precise meaning so closely.
16 pages  Approximate word count 90–170.

  • The Steam Train: Band 04/Blue The rhythm and rhyme of poetry is a fabulous way to help children learn to read. The steam train leaves the station, heading to the hills, into a rainstorm, through a tunnel and out the other side into the sunshine and to the seaside. The illustrations of this book are particularly striking.
  • The Rainforest at Night: Meet the animals and insects that live in the rainforest (Collins Big Cat Phonics) Rainforests are a popular topic in the first years of school, so this is a dual-purpose book. Meet the animals and insects that live in the rainforest and come out at night, in this simple non-fiction recount by award-winning wildlife photographer, Nic Bishop.
  • Collins Big Cat Phonics for Letters and Sounds – Athletics: Band 4/Blue Readers will learn about all the different sports in athletics in this photographic information book by Andy Seed. This book focuses on adjacent consonants with long vowel phonemes.
  • Catching the Moon: Band 04/Blue (Collins Big Cat Phonics)  Prince Hal is upset – he wants the moon. So the King and Queen send their servants, Grim and Crumb, out to catch the moon for him, with hilarious consequences. A story map helps children recount the story.
  • Harry’s Garden: Band 04/Blue (Collins Big Cat) This is a great way to encourage a creative hobby as Collins' celebrity gardening author demonstrates with her son, Harry, how to make a garden, step-by-step, in an old wheelbarrow. The book has instructions and wonderful photographs demonstrating the steps involved in making a garden.
  • The Lonely Penguin: Band 04/Blue (Collins Big Cat)Poor Penguin is lonely – he's lost his friends. Share his journey across Antarctica with this beautifully illustrated touching story. Children can re-cap the stages of Penguin’s journey on pages 14–15.
  • Animals in Hiding: Band 04/Blue (Collins Big Cat)• How do animals in the wild hide when they are hunting or being hunted? This photographic information book shows how animals camouflage themselves in their natural environment.

Green/Band 5

Learning opportunities: Read fluently with attention to punctuation. Solve new words using print detail, attending to meaning and syntax. Self-correct. Manage effectively a growing variety of texts, including non-fiction. Discuss and interpret character and plot more fully. Use contents page and glossary in non-fiction books, and locate information.
Varied, longer sentences, with little repetition of phrases. Repeated, unfamiliar words. More varied and larger number of characters involved. Events sustained over several pages with a larger number of words on page. Less familiar, more specialised vocabulary. Illustrations provide moderate support for fiction. Print may be located in captions, fact-boxes and diagrams in non-fiction.
24 pages.  Approximate word count 170–250. 

  • Super Sculptures (Big Cat Inform) This is a fascinating book with some really unusual sculptures including one made of fur and a bridge wrapped in cloth - plenty of talking points here as children enjoy this non-chronological report.
  • Collins Big Cat Phonics for Letters and Sounds – How to Draw Cat and Dog This is an unusual topic for a reading book, and a very welcome one as Shoo Rayner, creator of the successful Cat and Dog series, shows children step by step how to draw the much-loved characters in this non-fiction instruction book. The focus sounds in this book are: /ar/ a /or/ aw, our, al /ow/ ou /ai/ a-e /e/ ea /igh/ i-e, i /ee/ ea /ure/ our /oa/ o, ow, o-e; pages 22 and 23 allow children to re-visit the content of the book, supporting comprehension skills, vocabulary development and recall.
  • Crunch and Munch It's brilliant to see the huge variations in topics for Big Cat books, showing children how reading can affect all aspects of life. Here, we have a cookery book which consists of four simple, healthy recipes from Jamie Oliver's favourite dinner lady. Following instructions is an essential part of learning to read and here it has a practical application.
  • How The Elephant Got His Trunk: Band 05/Green (Collins Big Cat) is a traditional tale. Eddie the Elephant was always asking “Who? What? When?” But one day a crocodile gave him an answer he’d never forget! As with all the books, extensive back matter gives teachers a wealth of practical resources to enhance the experience of reading.
  • The King of the Forest: Band 05/Green (Collins Big Cat) A fox was having a nap when a tiger leapt out at him, ready to attack. Could the fox use his cunning to save his own life? This traditional story has been beautifully illustrated by Tomislav Zlatic.

Orange/Band 6 

Learning opportunities: Get started on fiction after briefer introductions,without relying on artwork. Examine non-fiction layout, using contents pages to select sections of a book to read. Read longer and more complex sentences with a range of punctuation and text layout. Use familiar syllables to read longer words. Use appropriate terminology in discussion. Check information in text with illustrations and comment on content. Infer meaning.
Increased proportion of space allocated to print rather than pictures in fiction.  Illustrations support overall meaning of text. Longer stories with more literary language. Sentence structures are more complex. Range of text provision, e.g. plays,simple poetry,simple non-fiction of different types. Non-fiction texts contain more formal sentences and unfamiliar terms and layouts.
24 pages  Approximate word count 250–300.

  • Clementine's Smile Clementine the crocodile is known for always being happy and having a big smile, but one day she gets toothache and can’t smile anymore. In this reassuring story, children will learn how she overcome her fear of the dentist and regained her smile. One feature that stands out in the Big Cat books is the way so many different styles of illustration are used, so the books always lok fresh and appealing, and children don't get bored with the same approach. This poem is illustrated with bright bold pictures that help to tell the story.
  • The Gardening Year takes children through the seasons with simple factual accounts of what can be grown when. The book includes a simple glossary - it's good to see this learning aid.
  • Pompeii: the Lost City introduces children to this fascinating city which disappeared when Vesuvius erupted. Four hundred years ago, Pompeii was rediscovered and this book allows children to step back in time and discover what life was like in the Roman times. This book supports discussions around history and what homes were like a long time ago.
  • The Brave Baby is a story from another culture about a brave baby girl, who is not frightened by the Indian chief. The storyboard encourages retelling of the story.
  • Noisy Neesha is a book in the Phonics for Letters and Sounds series. Can Neesha, the noisy elephant, and Mr Hare, who loves peace and quiet, live together peacefully?

Turquoise/Band 7

Learning opportunities:  Extract meaning from the text while reading with less dependence on illustrations. Use punctuation and text layout to read with expression and control. Sustain reading through longer sentence structures and paragraphs. Tackle a higher ratio of complex words with known vocabulary, phonics and syllables. Monitor own reading, checking and self-correcting while considering text meaning. Navigate around texts such as indexes, glossaries, and dictionaries.
More extended descriptions and use of literary phrasing. More print, more illustrations and layout with elaborated episodes and events. More unusual and challenging vocabulary, particularly in non-fiction. Illustrations provide a lower level of support in fictional texts, and include graphs, maps, and diagrams in non-fiction. Non-fiction texts contain longer, more formal sentences. Some repeated terms.
24 pages. Approximate word count 300–500. 

  • Big Questions (Phonics for Letters and Sounds) Children have all sorts of questions and one of the joys of learning to read is being able to find the answers for themselves, so they will enjoy this book. Why does your nose itch? What colour is a polar bear? Find out the answer to these and many other big questions in this non-fiction information book by Rob Alcraft. The focus sounds in this book are: /n/ kn /r/ wr /s/ c, ce, sc /sh/ ti, ci, si. Pages 22 and 23 allow children to re-visit the content of the book, supporting comprehension skills, vocabulary development and recall.
  • A Visit to the Farm This non-fiction book, with super colour photos, describes Sam’s experience of swapping the city for the farm. A glossary and timeline are useful learning aids, helping children to develop their own research skills at an early stage of learning to read.
  • From Tree To Bookis an informative account of how a book is made, from making the paper to printing the words to designing the cover.
  • Brown Bear and Wilbur Wolf: Band 07/Turquoise (Collins Big Cat)When Brown Bear loses his sense of smell he cannot find food. Wilbur Wolf is too old to hunt for food. Can the two find a way of working together to help each other? Pages 22 and 23 show two “wanted” posters from Brown Bear and Wilbur Wolf, allowing children to compare and match the characters’ traits and personalities.
  • Homes Sweet Homes: Band 07/Turquoise (Collins Big Cat) is a collection of beautiful poems about the habitats of contrasting creatures.

Purple/Band 8

Learning opportunities: Adapt to a variety of fiction, non-fiction and poetry with growing independence. Read silently and rapidly. Use punctuation to keep track of longer sentences.
 Solve most unfamiliar words by blending less common digraphs and recognising alternative spellings to read longer and more complex words. Predict content/layout/ story development. Take more conscious account of literary effects and the formal language of non-fiction. Begin to consciously use reading to extend speaking, writing, vocabulary and syntax.
Sentence structures becoming longer and more complex. Wider variety of genre but still
illustrated. Storyline may be more involved and reflect the feelings of the writer.  Some books with short chapters for more sustained reading. Characters are more distinctive and rounded than at earlier levels. Non-fiction texts cover an increasing curriculum range and different text formats. Alphabetically ordered texts, i.e. dictionaries and simple encyclopedias, glossaries, indexes.
24 pages. Approximate word count 500–750.

  • The Digestive System Children will learn why we need to eat and where the food goes. Through the photos and clear diagrams, they will follow the food on its journey. Perfect to support science learning on the human body, the book gives children the satisfaction of being able to do their own research. A full body diagram, allows children to recap the full journey our food takes, offering a different learning style.
  • Royal Rap is a brilliant book - what a super way to learn about all the kings and queens of England. Each monarch has their own two line couplet which really sums up each so children will remember. The couplets are accompanied by humorous cartoons
  • Jack in GoalThis story with a familiar setting is based on Jack’s first day at Glendale School. He has told the school football coach that he is a star goalie, so why isn’t he happy when he’s asked to join the team? The book explores the common themes of family, honesty and friendship as well as sport
  • Dubai From The Sky:This well presented and laid out book will engage children's attention with just enough information plus stunning photos to support the geography requirement to ‘interpret a range of sources of geographical information, including … aerial photographs’. Adults can check children's comprehension and embed learning with a reader response spread.

Gold/Band 9

As Purple, but offering slightly more challenge.
24 pages. Approximate word count 700–900.

  • Peter and the Wolf: An exciting playscript retelling Prokofieff’s classic tale Here's another example of the superb way Big Cat books offer children an introduction to a huge range of writing genres, this time with a playscript based on a popular tale. The cast of characters on page 2 shows how Prokofieff used a different musical instrument to represent each character and opens up opportunities for discussion. With the help of a narrator, the story reveals, how Peter outwits the big bad wolf.
  • Great Explorers: Christopher Columbus and Neil Armstrong gives children the chance to compare and contrast two explorers from very different eras and with very different achievements. Perfect to learn about famous people, with useful ideas for reading to extend the value of the book.
  • Escape from the Island Another playscript, this time an exciting story about a desert island. Swept out to seain a storm, five children end up on a desert island. Follow them as they explore the island and try to find a way to escape - and discover that sometimes it's the most unlikely person who saves the day. Clearly indicated, each of the characters is shown in a different colour, and the text is simple and easy to retell.
  • China’s Terracotta Army When the First Emperor of China died 2,000 years ago, he was buried in a giant tomb. In 1974, this tomb was discovered along with an army of over 6,000 terracotta warriors. It's an excellent account of a fascinating topic with a good glossary and index.

 White/Band 10 

Learning opportunities: Read silently, sustaining interest in longer text, returning to it easily later. Use text more fully as a reference and as a model, and find information in texts more
flexibly. Notice the spelling of unfamiliar words and relate to known words. Show increased awareness of vocabulary and precise meaning. Express reasoned opinions and interpretations about what is read, and compare texts.
Storyline or theme sustained over a longer period of time with chapters or subsections. Sentence structures may be longer, with more subordinate phrases or clauses. Characters may be more fully developed with more than one point of view expressed. Information/action implied, not spelled out. May contain more metaphorical or technical language. Non-fiction texts in a broader context and include more detailed information.
32 pages. Approximate word count 1200.

  • Buzz and Bingo in the Starry Sky This is the third humorous fantasy story in the Buzz and Bingo mini-series - it's great to encourage children to read by engaging them in a series of books. Buzz and Bingo are in Outer Space trying to help a lost alien, XY5, find his parents. Children will learn about space as they enjoy the story and look at the constellation map included - another learning opportunity.
  • I Never Know How Poems Start Much loved poet and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen explains how inspiration for poetry can come from anywhere – a memory, an insight and even broccoli! With a beautifully illustrated selection of his own quirky poems, this is a lovely way to encourage children to read and write poetry.
  • Your SensesThis information book by award-winning author Sally Morgan looks at each of our senses in turn and explains how they work and why they are so important. The book features excellent labelled diagrams. Curriculum links are Science: Ourselves; Sound and hearing; children can use the glossary and index to help them discover relevant facts.
  • The Camel Fair is a non-fiction recount of a holiday in India. The highlight of the visit, and the central focus of the book, is the Pushkar Camel Fair. The event is recounted in a letter format through the eyes of a child, Sarina who is visiting relatives. The superb photos really bring this vibrant country to life for children.

Lime/Band 11

Learning opportunities: Recognise text type and predict general content, returning easily to them after a break. Read silently, adjusting speed to suit material and monitoring the meaning. Rerun to make different interpretations of dialogue, complex sentences etc. Make use of blurbs, glossaries, and indexes to locate information quickly and accurately. Express reasoned opinions about what is read, and compare texts. Sustain meaning over many phrases for comprehension due to complex sentences.
Storyline or theme may be sustained over a longer period of time with chapters or subsections. More unfamiliar, sophisticated terms including a greater range of verbs to suggest precise meanings. Widening range of layout, genre, and writing style. More metaphorical or technical language. More technical vocabulary not supported directly by illustrations.
32 pages. Approximate word count 1500.

  • One Night in the Zoo The fun starts at the zoo when all the visitors have gone home, as children will discover in this enjoyable rhyming story with its delicate illustrations. Children will love to count the wide variety of animals in a fun and wonderfully imaginative way as they follow them through the night, and find out what mischief they get into. Then they can recap the story through the summary which shows each animal in the book in number order. Big Cat books have a focus on using the very best of children's authors, showing their commitment to making reading a great experience for children. Judith Kerr is an acclaimed author of many children's books.
  • Building High is a non-chronological report about scaffolding. Children's interest will be captured by this description of something they see on a regular basis, helping them to make sense of the world around them. Readers will learn what scaffolding is made from, how it has developed around the world from its earliest origins to the present day, and what it is used for, as well as meeting a young scaffolder. A variety of types of illustration, including well-labelled diagrams and striking photos, add to the effectiveness of the book.
  • The Great Granny Gang is another story from Judith Kerr, this time about some venturesome grannies. Through wonderfully rhythmical writing and exquisite illustrations, children will discover that there is a lot more to this gang of grey-haired grannies than meets the eye! A summary on pages 34 and 35 of each granny and her skill supports children in recapping the story, providing plenty of speaking and listening opportunities.
  • Blood Supporting KS2 science, children will find answers to many questions about blood in this fun non-fiction information book. Useful diagrams and fun cartoons make these difficult concepts accessible and interesting, helping children to find out how to extrapolate information from visual material as well as text.

Collins Big Cat Band 12/Copper Year 3 Ages 7 -8

• Copper/Band 12 books provide more complex plots and longer chapters that develop reading stamina.
• Text type - An information book.
• The books are organised into short chapters to help children practise the skills of locating and identifying important information.
• The glossary and index can be used to develop children's information retrieval skills further.
• Curriculum links - each book is linked to the curriculum.
There are many more books in this band, in addition to those listed,  with an equal amount of Fiction and Non-Fiction readers.The non-fiction books cover a wide range of subjects, all matched to the National Curriculum, so children are enhancing their learning at the same time as improving their reading skills. Each topic is described on a two-page spread, with carefully selected language to match the book banding. Ideas for reading are found at the end of each book. Parents will find these books excellent for furthering their child's interest in specific subjects.
Tara Binns High-Flying Pilot When Tara Binns opens up her dressing up box in the attic, something exciting always happens. This time, she finds herself in the pilot’s seat of a passenger plane – and she’s the pilot! When a big storm appears ahead of them, will Tara be able to think calmly and logically to avert disaster? This exciting title in the Tara Binns mini-series is written by Lisa Rajan. Copper/Band 12 books provide more complex plots and longer chapters that develop reading stamina. Ideas for reading in the back of the book provide practical support and stimulating activities.
Roman Life in Britain shows how dramatically life for people in Britain changed when the Roman Emperor Claudius invaded in 43 AD. Learn how people in Roman Britain lived, travelled, ate, dressed and even washed themselves. Find out why the Romans came to Britain and why they had to leave.
Mega Plants takes a fascinating look at huge plants from around the world, including trees that grow larger than the Statue of Liberty or weigh ten times as much as the Blue Whale. Superb photos will really capture children's attention.
The Stone Age has an appealing approach, with some slightly cartoon-style illustrations depicting everyday life; it's a nice friendly approach. The photos show plenty of artefacts, and the text is easy to read and very informative.
Great Architects encourages children to look around and appreciate the fact that every building they see was designed by someone. Many of the buildings standing today were either designed or influenced by architects working thousands of years ago; they can see the impact on their own world.
Super Boats will really interest children, as they love to learn about vehicles, and especially ones that are super-fast or super-sized. Children will be amazed at the vast variety of boats and the amazing features they have - and the photos show this all to them.

Collins Big Cat Band 13/Topaz Year 3 Ages 7 - 8

Topaz/Band 13 books offer longer and more demanding reads for children to investigate and evaluate.
Tara Binns Double Quick Doctor It's a great idea for children to progress through a mini series of books about a likeable and interesting character, encouraging them to develop their reading skills as they follow her adventures. Tara Binns becomes a doctor in a busy hospital, helping children who have hurt themselves. When one child suddenly struggles to breathe, can she use her deduction skills to work out the problem in time? Ideas for reading at the end offer a huge range of ideas to use the book to maximum benefit.
Leisure and Entertainment since 1900 Children can find it hard to imagine life, especially entertainment, without TV, films and all manner of electronic devices. This colourful book will help them learn about how music, dancing, film, television, sport and computing have changed since 1900, and the different things people used to do in their spare time.
Underwater Treasure looks at the amazing discoveries that have been made under the sea, including giant statues and a drowned city. Captions for the photographs add additional information.
Caribbean Carnival fits in with the curriculum that requires children to learn about celebrations and, as this book shows, the Caribbean has some of the most colourful and exciting to be found anywhere. The vibrant colours will enchant children.
In Plants, Pollen and Pollinators children will learn that it's not just bees and butterflies who pollinate flowers - beetles, lizards and small mammals are also good pollinators? A fascinating book to support the science curriculum.

Collins Big Cat Band 14/Ruby Year 4 Ages 8 -9

Ruby/Band 14 books give increasing opportunities for children to develop their skills of inference and deduction.
Tara Binns Big Idea Engineer This time, Tara Binns becomes a crash-test engineer, conducting safety tests to ensure airbags in cars are working safely and experimenting with new ideas. Will her new ideas or lessons in health and safety help to avert a potentially fatal crash? She's a great role model and the books encourage an interest in STEM subjects.
The Water Cycle We all need water to survive – without it there would be no life on Earth! Find out how the Earth recycles water, and what we can do to help. The text is accompanied by an excellent mix of photos, captions, fact boxes, lists and diagrams to introduce children to the many ways in which information can be presented.
Early Kings of England supports the new history curriculum by looking at the changes in Britain between the departure of the Romans in 410 and the Norman invasion in 1066. Readers will find out who ruled the many British kingdoms in that time, and what life was like for the ordinary people living on farms and in towns and villages.
Greatest Ashes Moments helps children understand why there is so much passion about the tiny trophy known as the Ashes. When England and Australia play each other at cricket, there is a lot at stake and contests between these two nations have been full of great moments. Find out which ones stand head and shoulders above the rest!
Food Chains shows how living things find the food they need to survive, who eats whom, and how we all link together to form a food chain.

Collins Big Cat Band 15/Emerald Year 4 Ages 8 - 9

• Emerald/Band 15 books provide a widening range of genres including science fiction and biography, prompting more ways to respond to texts.
Changing Land shows how to be a landscape detective and how land use has changed over time. The book features Colchester in Essex and Portree on the Isle of Skye and children will learn skills to help them interpret their own area.
Mapping Australia explains how people have mapped Australia – from songs that recorded what the landscape looked like, and early explorers’ drawings, to modern maps and satellite images. Interesting artwork records lively historical scenes.
Boudica The warrior queen of the Iceni tribe, is famous for leading her people into battle against the Romans about 2000 years ago. Learners will find out who she was Boudica, and why she took on the mighty power of Rome, written in a lively and engaging style.
Super Stars features superb photography and explores the fact that space scientists believe there are billions of stars in our universe. It travels deep into space, discovering how stars are born, what they’re made from, what they do, and what happens when they die.

Collins Big Cat Band 16/Sapphire Year 5 Age 9 - 10

• Sapphire/Band 16 books offer longer reads to develop children's sustained engagement with texts and are more complex syntactically.
Time-Traveller's Guide to the Bronze Age Over 4000 years ago, people started making things from bronze. Take a world tour, locating places with the maps featured on every page, discovering some of the brilliant Bronze-Age wonders.
The Railway Revolution had a huge impact on every aspect of life in nineteenth century Britain. In 1804 the first steam train set out on a nine mile journey. Within 50 years, there were 6,000 miles of railway across the country.
The Arabian Desert will amaze children with the plants, animals, and people who live in this beautiful landscape.The sandy Arabian Desert stretches for hundreds of kilometres in every direction and many different living things call it home. Fact boxes and captions help understanding.
How to Build a House is an excellent way to encourage children to think about the place they call home - and about others' homes too. Travelling around the world, there are homes made of mud, stone, wood, glass, metal, concrete and even recycled plastic. Building materials can be strong, flexible, mouldable - and even beautiful.

Collins Big Cat Band 17/Diamond Year 6 Ages 10 - 11

• Diamond/Band 17 books offer more complex, underlying themes to give opportunities for children to understand causes and points of view.
The Story of Football Children will enjoy finding out how the game developed from mediaeval times, when it was a highly dangerous street game involving rival mobs and hardly any rules, into the world’s most popular spectator sport, loved by fans and players all over the world.
The Story of the Electric Guitar explains their contribution to music over the last century. How were they invented, who were (and are) the greatest guitarists and what makes this amazing instrument so versatile and exciting?
Light What is light and how does it work? Did you know it was the fastest thing in the universe? Learn about the different properties of light and the importance of the sun, as well as the potential for using light in the future.
Creatures from the Past discusses the animals that ruled the sea, land and skies from before the time of the dinosaurs until humans appeared. Evolution (a topic from the National Curriculum) is uncovered through examining fossils and remains, from dinosaur poo to shells to deep-frozen mammoths.
Technology in the Battle of Britain takes a topic children are interested in - technology - and shows how it played a role in in every aspect of the war: from code-breaking computers and radar to faster, more agile fighter planes.

Collins Big Cat Band 18/Pearl Year 6 Ages 10 - 11

• Pearl/Band 18 books offer fluent readers a complex, substantial text with challenging themes to facilitate sustained comprehension, bridging the gap between a reading programme and longer chapter books.
Spotlight on Russia Readers will learn about life in Russia - a huge, varied country with big cities, small villages and wildernesses full of wildlife. It has an amazing history of Tsars and rebellions and bloody revolutions, as well as being a major power in the world today. The Battle of Passchendaele In 1917, during World War I, the battle of Passchendaele was fought on the Western Front in Belgium. Find out why the battle was important and what life was like for the soldiers who fought and died there. Contemporary photographs really bring history alive. Charlotte Bronteë loved to create imaginary worlds and make up stories with her brother and sisters. Find out what life was like for Charlotte growing up, and how these games led her to become a best-selling author. The book is also very informative about the period. Coral Reefs are some of the most amazing habitats on earth, home to exotic fish, colourful corals, turtles and even sharks. Explore the reefs like a diver, and learn about how they formed, how they work, and how we can keep them safe for future generations to enjoy.You would expect a book on coral reefs to have stunning photos and this book does not disappoint.




Big Cat Reading Lions help you to support your child’s reading development at home. Each book in the series has been created by leading children’s authors and illustrators, and carefully levelled by educational experts, meaning you can enjoy reading with your child at every stage in their reading journey. The Reading Lions series contains six clear levels from First Reading to Independent Reading, allowing you to select the right books for your child. It works alongside any reading scheme used by your child’s school and each book features talking points to extend your child’s understanding.

Level 1: First Reading (Collins Big Cat Reading Lions)

First Reading contains 6 phonic readers supporting how children learn to read at school. The 3 fiction and 3 non-fiction books will help your child learn to decode simple, short sentences and practice limited, specific phonemes, with very few tricky words. Includes Got It by Charlotte Guillain; Pet Cat, Big Cat by Alison Hawes; Pond Food by John Townsend; Sam and the Nut by Sheryl Webster; Ant and Snail by Paul Shipton; We Are Not Fond of Rat Emma Chichester Clark. The guide age for this set is 4 to 5; as always, do remember that all children learn at different speeds, so always be guided by your child's ability and encourage them to work at their own pace; take advice from their teacher too.

Level 2: Practice Reading (Collins Big Cat Reading Lions)

Building on the previous pack in a progressive and confidence-building sequence, the books include longer sentences with new phonemes, and direct speech with more tricky words. Includes ; The Sun and the Moon by Paul Shipton; The Rainforest at Night by Nic Bishop; Gorillas by Teresa Heapy; The Singing Beetle by Linda Strachan; Zog and Zebra by Mal Peet & Elspeth Graham and A Day Out by Petr Horacek. Guide age 5-6. I well remember, and I am sure many others do, reading very dull readers with my children; these books are a far cry from that. To take the example of The Rainforest at Night - the book is packed with stunning photography and is highly informative. 'Getting Creative' extension activities are full of inspiration for parents. These aren't just school readers branded for home use - great efforts have been made to ensure they are packed with hep for parents.

Level 3: Supported Reading (Collins Big Cat Reading Lions)

The next step in helping your child learn to read with adult support, these books include longer, less illustrated texts, with paragraphs, literary language and distinctive characterisation. The set includes: What’s that Building? by Richard Platt; Unusual Traditions by John McIlwain; How to be a Knight by Scoular Anderson; Chewy Hughie by Jane Clarke; Twinkle, Twinkle Firefly by John Agard & Grace Nichols and Mountain Mona by Vivian French. Guide age 6-7. Each book has a helpful introduction which aids parents to get the best out of the book and explains the new words that will be encountered; phonics are explained too. It's all ideal for parents who want to do their best for their children but aren't quite sure where to start and find the range of books in the bookshop very confusing.

Level 4: Confident Reading (Collins Big Cat Reading Lions)

By this stage, children should be able to read confidently to an adult. This set moves learning to read on with texts with complex sentences including subordinate clauses and figurative language. The books included are Your Senses by Sally Morgan; Cloud Forest by Nic Bishop; How to be a Viking by Scoular Anderson; Class Six and the Very Big Rabbit by Martin Waddell; Oliver by Hilary McKay and The House in the Forest by Janet Foxley. Guide age 6-7. The range of books in each set is well-balanced and the subjects for the non-fiction are appealing to children. The texts are good and the engagingly presented facts will be of interest to children.

Level 5: Independent Reading (Collins Big Cat Reading Lions)

Continue to help your child learn to read independently with these books which contain longer texts, with more complex themes and characterisation. The titles are How to be a Roman by Scoular Anderson; Extreme Sports by Adrian Bradbury; My Olympic Story by Kwane N. Acheampong; The Gargling Gorilla by Margaret Mahy; Brother Aelred’s Feet by Gillian Cross and Great Expectations by Hilary McKay. Just look at the authors' names - Collins have made sure all the books are written by top-class authors and it's impressive to see how this continues throughout the series. Guide age 8-9.

Level 6: Fluent Reading (Collins Big Cat Reading Lions)

This final set in the series will help your child learn to read freely and without difficulty, complex chapter books and non-fiction texts. The set contains 6 books: The Traveller’s Guide to the Solar System by Giles Sparrow; Michael Rosen: All About Me by Michael Rosen; My Journey across the Indian Ocean by James Adair; The Hedgehog Mystery by Ally Kennen; I Have a Dream by Levi David Addai and Project Bright Spark by Annabel Pitcher. Guide age 9-11. This progressive reading scheme is excellent for parents to use as it guides them right through helping their child from early to confident reading. The balance between fiction and non-fiction in this series is a really excellent feature; we know many children prefer to read non-fiction and the quality of these books is exceptional, with descriptive text and superb photography.



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