Who creates readers?  Pernille Ripp,  an ELA teacher says that WE do, their educators.  Her latest post connects beautifully to what I learned at iFLT.  She even includes Krashen’s research to support that WE as teachers must plan for reading enjoyment.  Students need to read for pleasure in order to make gains.  This is precisely what I learned at ifLT on the topic with the FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) extraordinaire, Bryce Hedstrom.  

Why do we teach FVR?

One major reason is because as Krashen tells us, reading is 10 times more effective than language instruction.  However we also need to create a culture of reading among youth and adolescence.  Bryce gave the statistics that only 55% of high school graduates read another book beyond graduation and 60% read after college graduation.  FVR is our opportunity as educators to instill a love for reading by letting them have time in our class to explore our library and find what they enjoy reading.  iFLT 2017 attendees had the opportunity to see Krashen and Van Patten have a panel discussion.  A  question posed was about what documentation of student growth would look like in an ideal world in a World Language Classroom.  Krashen responded that in an ideal world we would not have to document growth.  He said that it is not necessary.  He believes that that we can decide what we need on our own to grow.  Her gave some wonderful examples of how people like Abraham Lincoln and Michael Faraday never studied nor took a test.  They were hungry on their path to find what was interesting and this is precisely what made them successful.  Therefore if we provide students with a library full of variety, we can help them find what they are hungry to learn and their passion will never die out.   Krashen’s book, “The Power of Reading” as well as Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide are two books that were cited often during this session.  I bought them to explore further for implementation of a successful FVR program in my classroom.


What do you need for an FVR program?


-Books and magazines with a large variety

-A teacher who models reading during FVR time

-Time:  Decide on an amount of time.  Bryce recommends that the student and teacher start their FVR program reading for 5 minutes at the beginning of class in lower levels.  The time will gradually increase as students progress.  

-Procedure:  Students get to read what they want during SSR (Silent Sustained Reading) because this will transform into FVR.  


Student choice will create a desire to read.  The ultimate goal is to give students the habit of being a lifelong reader.  Eventually students will be intrinsically motivated.


What are the benefits of reading novels?

-The vocabulary is repetitive.

-It is easier and more fun for most students

-Fiction readers have better relationships because they are more empathetic

-Life lessons are easier to see


How can we help students choose what to read?

It must be interesting and compelling. In the event that a student does not like what they choose to read, have them bring more than one book to read so that they can look at several options at their seat instead of getting up during silent reading time and interrupting.  

Here is a link to advice that Bryce gives his students.


What are some strategies to teach students about how to read?

Essentially we should push students to look at the word and see if they can recognize and part of it or stem.  If they can not recognize any part of it, encourage students to keep reading.  Bryce said that if there are 3-4 words a page that are too hard then students should probably choose another book.  

Check out Bryce’s bookmark here that includes word attack strategies in more detail here.  


Why should we teach like this?

Bryce says that delayed gratification does not work well with language acquisition.  Students want to begin engaging with language early on.  He told us the story of John Gagliardi.  He was the head football coach at St. John’s University in Minnesota with the most wins in college history.  Why was this so?  Bryce said it is because he had a revolutionary approach.  Instead of having “practice” and “drills” about the game, they PLAYED the game during practice.  What a wonderful way to think of students’ language learning.  Instead of having students learn about language, why not have them engage with the language by reading.  

Teaching with Comprehensible Input, has convinced me that Free Voluntary Reading is a powerful tool in any language classroom.  According to Ripp, “We create readers through exploration.”  For this reason, FVR is so important. We are allowing students to navigate through books to find what ignites a spark of passion within them.  An FVR (Free Voluntary Reading library for language teachers IS the perfect way to do this. There is a wealth of variety in fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels and more.  In my Spanish class weak readers enjoy something simple such as  Wooly’s graphic novels and my high flyers  may like to read an authentic text in Spanish such as those that Mike Peto recommends in his latest post here or here.  One of the most of important pieces of Ripp’s post is that we as teachers are a part of the FVR process.  We must help guide our students on their journey and point them in the direction of the books that will either create or renew a passion for reading.  FVR is also a perfect tool to differentiate in our classrooms!  I can’t wait to make it a staple of my classroom this year.  Check out Bryce’s website here with tons of excellent resources to explore and bring back to your classroom!

Blog post by official iFLT17 blogger Arianne Dowd



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