Oh How Wonderful Free Choice Reading is by Brett

Today, I was looking around the room in my level 3 Honors class today when I noticed how much the chosen book for many of my students matched their personality.

I had a student from my last year class reading the compilation of Invisibles stories from last year, many of which he had co-written with his class.

I had a group of boys reading Diario de Greg, the Spanish version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, because they loved reading the Wimpy Kid books during middle school.

I had two artistic students reading Edi El Elefante because of the beautiful watercolors. I had a somewhere-between-regular-and-heritage-speaker student absolutely devouring Sonríe, a graphic novel written for an Hispanic audience. She had progressed successfully through an increasingly difficult series of leveled readers, so I introduced her to some of the Hispanic audience graphic novels I had and encouraged her to give it a go if she wanted to. She took me up on it, and is really enjoying it. I know because she fusses at me when I don’t get reading started right at the beginning of class: “Mr. Chonko, we’re going to read today, right?”

I had a group of weak boys in the back reading their way through the Brandon Brown series, some of the easier books I have.

I had a group of students reading La Familia de Frederico Rico, Craig Klein Dexemple’s new book because they loved Pablito El Ratón so much (One of these kids in particular recently added up the number of pages he’d read so far this year, on his own accord, and he was ecstatic when he was able to tell me over 750 pages. Mind you, he’s gravitated toward easier readers, so that’s not normal.)

I had another very serious, ambitious student puzzling out El Espía Huerfano, a definite reach for his current level.

I had another student reading a leveled-reader biography on George Washington written in Spain, a definite reach for her, but her uncle from Spain had sent it to her, so she was intent on giving it a go.

Another student, a professed anti-reader, was well into Sr. Wooly’s new graphic novel La Casa de la Dentista, because the graphic novels hold her attention better. That’s after reading Sr. Wooly’s Billy Y Las Botas and Craig Klein Dexemble’s books, because of all the pictures she likes looking at while reading.

Yet another kid, a Rasta-Man with dreads and an artistic leaning personality, was two-thirds of the way through the new Carlos Santana bio by Ben Lev. I knew the second I saw that book that I’d recommend it to him. Before I even knew the book existed, we’d had conversations at the end of class about Santana and even listened to a few of his greatest hits at the end of class.

Disclaimer 1: This is a level 3 honors class, so their experience lets them access a breadth of the readers that level 1 and 2 classes cannot. So, I wouldn’t expect this type of differentiation and personalization to happen in lower levels. Nevertheless, it does happen. I just launched individual reading in my level 1, and this history buff kid is reading Rebeldes de Texas and told me he can understand a lot because he already knows the history so well. So, it does happen.

Disclaimer 2: The breadth of leveled readers for non-Spanish is so paltry, unfortunately, that I wouldn’t dream of having this level of personalization happen.


Nevertheless, I was jumping for joy on the inside looking out at my class. I do believe that inspiring a L2 reading habit is the most important thing we can do as L2 teachers to encourage our students to continue L2 study after our classrooms, which is absolutely necessary if they are going to achieve lasting proficiency.


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