- Defense of FVR: I tried class-wide novel reading for a year. It didn’t work for me. The students hated the experience. Every time I announced it was reading time, their eyes rolled and they groaned. I tried Piratas del Caribe y el Mapa Secret and they hated it. I tried Esperanza and they hated it. But now that I’ve switched to FVR, those are two of my most popular books, especially Esperanza. I know a lot of the authors and other folks would say that I’m just not doing it right. But I think there’s more to it, and Dr. Krashen’s research into free voluntary reading largely backs that up. It wasn’t differentiated enough. It couldn’t appeal to the vastly different personalities and reading preferences present in each class. So it was the format of class-wide reading that didn’t work for my students. Now, those two books mentioned above are two of the absolutely most popular novels to read! I recently tried reading to them from Billy y las Botas as a treat. Same thing. In less than 3 minutes, I’d lost half the class to boredom. But in the FVR format, Billy Y Las Botas is wildly popular. (Note: My colleague on this site, Erin, has found much greater success with whole class novels at the middle school level. That could speak to her personality in particular or to middle school classes in general. I don’t know.)
- Popularity: The most popular book by far has been Pablito El Ratón. Kids of all levels love it! Right on the same level have been my classes’ Invisibles stories from last year, so I encourage everyone to make your own classes’ stories available during FVR. There’s a second tier of popularity among my kids that includes: Fiesta Fatal first and foremost, then Billy Y Las Botas and La Casa de la Dentista, all the Brandon Brown books, Esperanza, and Noches Misteriosas en Granada. As more books get published, more student favorites emerge! Yay!
- Funding: I send out Novel Donation Letter asking for money from parents explaining the rationale for buying books. Works for my community. Each year I raise over $1000. You´re free to adapt and use it.
- Why not children’s books: Children’s literature is actually quite advanced. The books written by and for the CI community are much more comprehensible and have many, many times the number of words in each title than children’s books. Plus, they reflect more mature themes which is necessary given my high school audience.
- Buying books: Since I’m interested in running an FVR program, not class-wide reading, I prioritize buying a few copies of all the titles rather than a class set of a few titles.
- Accountability: In my FVR program, the only accountability I use is by grading their reading habits every once in awhile using Habits of Strong Readers Rubric. But after the first week, it’s only as needed. Research shows they learn more with less accountability. Works for me!! Less grading!
- Mike Peto has a great blog called CI Reading, which is dedicated to reviewing and promoting independently published novels so they don’t get lost in oblivion online. Go check his reviews out!!
- Make-up work: I check books out from my library for makeup work in addition to students translating whatever text we recorded from class. It gives them quality input. I usually require two chapters for every class missed with a two sentence summary in English for each chapter.