FVR Cartoon Library Starter Kit

Easy, enjoyable reading for World Language Classes

(E) Once you have a library: how to do FVR well

Here are a few tips to starting a recreational reading program:

How you display the class library is important. Think of a bookstore; the titles whose covers are facing outward get a lot more attention than the books that are hidden in the shelves. Generating interest by letting students browse the covers is essential. I have designed a cheap, easy to assemble display for our booklets that displays the covers outward.

Suggestions from 81 Generalizations about Free Voluntary Reading

The following suggestions are based on the generalizations presented above as well as on the suggestions of teachers.
1. Do a little each day, not a lot once a week (distributed, not massed)
2. Less is more; do less than you think they can handle; if you think they can sit and read for 15 minutes, do ten minutes.
3. Make sure plenty of books and other reading material are available.
4. Comic books are ok.
5. Magazines are ok.
6. Graded readers, books written for language students, are ok.
7. Let students select their own reading material (SY Lee 2007)
8. Impose minimum censorship on what is read* (for discussion, see Trelease, 2004)
9. It is ok for readers to read “easy” books (below their “level”) (Krashen, 2005b).
10. It is ok for readers to read “hard” (books above their “level”) (Krashen, 2005b).
11. Students don’t have to finish every book they start to read.*
12. Sustained silent reading is not for beginners. Beginners need other kinds of comprehensible text. It also will not help advanced readers who have already established a reading habit (Krashen, 2001a).
13. Supplement SSR with activities that serve to make reading more comprehensible and interesting (e.g. read alouds, trips to the library, discussion of literature).
14. Don’t use rewards for reading, don’t test students on what is read, do not require book reports. Use zero or minimum accountability. When the conditions are right (compelling reading material available, and enough reading competence) direct encouragement can work.
15. How about some food and drink? Let’s trying eating and reading in the school library.* (Trelease and Krashen, 1996)

Little or no assessment
This is a hard pill for a high school teacher to swallow. I have settled for the option of little to maintain some sort of accountability (for instance, I can track when students flat out lie about their reading). In my experience most students do NOT need accountability, so I do not punish the majority with book report just to make sure that every one reads! Click here to download a link to my reading log. There is a space for every day, although in my intermediate classes we often need two weeks to complete a five day reading log. I pass them out at the end of the reading period, students take just a moment to record a summary and reaction, then I collect the log and apply a unique stamp to indicate that the log has been completed. The stamp is a Peto head stamp, hand-made.

Further reading:super house
The SSR Handbook, Janice L. Pilgreen (book)

Where to go from here?

Hopefully you will continue to receive booklets from this website!

Beyond that then the next step, I think, is to buy a single copy of every TPRS reader that you can find (most sell for $5 to $6 per copy, so even with a small budget you can grow your classroom library). Interestingly, I have found that even books that I initially dismissed for whatever reason have found some fan base among my students. For that reason I am a huge fan of the professionally prepared TPRS readers offered at TPRS Publishing. The authors are experts at creating highly compelling stories with extremely limited vocabulary, which translates into pleasure reading for our students.

Here is a list of sites where you can purchase TPRS readers:

Fluency Matters
TPRS Books
CI Reading
Mira Canion, author

If you know of another author publishing books with limited vocabularies like the TPRS authors listed above then please leave a comment so that I can add them to my list (and my library).


** Good reading quotes curated by Bryce Hedstrom; click here to see his presentation on light reading.


5 comments on “(E) Once you have a library: how to do FVR well

  1. hawkin28
    May 28, 2014

    Your blog has convinced me and my administration has allowed me to invest in a FVR library. Now I’m nervous to prove myself as a first-year teacher asking for money! My main concern before I submit this order (today!) is whether I need to be TPRS-trained to make FVR work in my class. I’m interested in TPRS and will become trained sooner or later (my mom is a trained French TPRS teacher). I haven’t done any storytelling in my class yet, but Independent reading time alone using leveled readers sounds promising. Do you think I will be able to see noticeable growth doing this without TRP Storytelling? Do you think I’d need to read a traditional TPRS novel as a whole class (activities and all) before I launch them into Independent Reading? I’ve seen all your posts on how to make this be as successful as possible. Let me know if you think of any caveats. Mil gracias!

    • mpeto
      May 29, 2014

      I feel like I would need to know a lot about your classes before I could respond properly. First, I am not an expert by any means… I would recommend getting Pilgreen´s book (which is on my summer reading list too, I posted it as a recommendation because it was recommended to me). Keep in mind, too, that FVR is not for beginners. My intermediate students pick up a book and start reading independently because, in part, they have been reading short stories and novels from level 1. Our curriculum focuses on high-frequency words so, by level three, leveled readers are pleasure reading. I am not trying to discourage you, but open up one of the books that you are considering purchasing and ask yourself if your students have already acquired 95% of the vocabulary. Independent pleasure reading should not be a struggle, they really should be able to do it without struggle. Personally, I would ask admin to fund TPRS methods training before buying an FVR library because that will likely have a bigger impact on your students overall experience.

  2. hawkin28
    June 2, 2014

    still me ^ (different username). Thank you for your advice. I’m teaching upper levels and maybe they could benefit from FVR, but I’ll try to build my story-telling skills in the meantime. I feel like my levels 3’s couldn’t handle “La llorona de mat..”, for example, until half-way through the year, even though it’s a level 2 novel–that’s just where they’re at with their language coming to me.

    Could you explain point 12 a little for me? I understand how FVR could be difficult for beginners (though Bryce’s “light reading” in level 1 posts suggest otherwise), but what does ” It also will not help advanced readers who have already established a reading habit” mean exactly? If I guide my beginning readers through all the novels is that developing a habit that cannot be unestablished? I guess as most of my students are intermediate maybe I shouldn’t worry about this point.

    You said your level 3’s take well to FVR because they’ve been reading stories since level 1. If students enter my Spanish 3 class with no storytelling experience, could I guide them through storytelling and leave them to FVR by second semester? There are four other Spanish teachers at my school and it could be difficult to maintain a well-supported TPRS (or high frequency word) curriculum throughout a student’s Spanish experience.

    Thanks for your input.

  3. mpeto
    June 4, 2014

    As I read your description of your upper level students I was reminded that, really, I can only speak to my experiences. I would think that FVR would work given that the readings you make available are compelling and comprehensible (and that is not a small caveat), but I suspect you will have to experiment with the process to figure out how to get students to buy in to pleasure reading in a second language.

    Concerning point 12: although I have copied the list unedited from Krashen´s paper, I have the same concerns that you have stated. However, you state that FVR might be difficult for beginners. I do not think that FVR should be difficult, even for beginners, if we have the right readings. The readings available should be highly-comprehensible pleasure reading… the scarcity of compelling, highly comprehensible texts for beginners is probably the reason why Krashen states that FVR is not for beginners. Nonetheless he is also clear that students CAN choose texts above their reading level if THEY find the reading compelling. That is why I do have some biographies of sports heroes… some kids would rather read a difficult text about baseball than an easy reading about anything non-baseball related.

    Katie Baker´s novel La Llorona de Mazatlan is a great example; in my classes it was wildly popular among students from Mexican-American families. I think it is a great novel, and the students who came to the novel with some intrinsic interest were motivated to read it. Yet there are some students who would rather read Felipe Alou, followed by Sueños de la isla, followed by the biography of Clemente… and those are the students who bellyache if I force them to read an awesome novel like La Llorona. FVR lets us read what we want.

    I think that is the spirit that you will need to develop in your upper level classes. I see no reason why you must wait until second semester, but start with only 5 or 10 minutes of reading. Let them choose books that are way too easy for them. It will be rough at first. Try to be sensitive to their reading preferences, have discussions about what kinds of books they would like to see added to your class library. Schedule book chats where they talk about the books they are reading in small groups. They will notice that pleasure reading is important. The alternative, having an advanced class that does not read for pleasure… that is just too sad to consider!

  4. hawkin28
    November 12, 2014

    Follow up (m.shell). I placed the order got the books and we’re about to start FVR time. Excited to put your advice in place. (Commented on some posts from your other blog)

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