Most of us read in our classes, but we do not have a program. We read haphazardly, providing texts to students as they come. We have tactics, but no strategy. Without an overall approach it is unlikely that our students will leave our classes loving reading in their second language. The purpose of this book is to give second language teachers (1) a multi-year, big picture plan that will lead from no explicit reading program to an effective, differentiated program for all of their classes, (2) real-world skills to confront a culture of non-reading, and (3) organization ideas so that managing the reading program is simple.
In this book I describe a comprehensive reading program that includes many kinds of reading for the second language classroom. There is a place for whole class reading of one novel, as well as many whole class and small group activities which process single texts, fiction and nonfiction. However, what distinguishes this approach is that these activities all serve to support a pleasure reading program. Pleasure reading is quite different from the kind of reading where a class is tied, like it or not, to one novel for several weeks. The hallmarks of pleasure reading are student choice, little or no assessment, and giving students the ability to abandon the text. That may sound like a recipe for “not much will be learned in that class” … or it very well could turn into a highly differentiated, highly student-centered year with a group of intrinsically-motivated students like no other year before.
In the past I used to tie my advanced classes to one novel at a time, or one short story, or one poem, convinced that my students needed me to help them learn to read. And they do need me as we read La ciudad de las bestias in AP® Spanish. However, until I developed a pleasure reading program, I did not recognize that teaching them how to read advanced texts was not making them into readers. Those lessons prepare students to confront complex texts, each year more and more difficult. On the other hand, pleasure reading, losing yourself in the action of a story and not having to stop to complete a written analysis … that is what hooks a student on reading. Now, rather than just being prepared to read, many more of my students are leaving my class as actual bona fide lifelong readers … in their second language.
This book shows you how to meet the diverse needs of your students. Some students are not yet part of the “club of readers” in any language. This book shows you how to entice them to want to join this elite club. Some of your students undoubtedly already enjoy reading in their native language, but pleasure reading in their second language? This book shows you how to connect them to simple texts that will tap into their love of reading and lead to remarkable language gains. You may teach a lesser-taught language with very few comprehensible texts available for beginning language learners. This book shows you how to tap into your students’ imaginations to create class texts that are interesting to your students and easy to understand. You may teach students who already are familiar with the target language through exposure at home, but who lack basic literacy skills. These students are often referred to as heritage language learners (HLLs), and pleasure reading is among the very best ways to help them develop their language skills.