Advice about Reading Programs


  1. Defense of Individual Reading Programs: 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 individual reading programs, 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. It felt like a chore since the students didn’t self-select it. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Accountability: In my FVR program, I coach students 1-on-1. In 10 minutes, I usually get through 2 or 3 kids. My expectation that I’ve communicated to them is that they be able to translate a paragraph they read already that day smoothly and without all but the occasional error. This means they must work to understand the individual words and how they fit together to form the sentences, not just the gist. I ran into problems before I switched to this accountability measure with kids not really decoding vocabulary successfully, but understood the gist. I explain much more about this process here.
  5. 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!!
  6. 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.