Low-Accountability Free Voluntary Reading

The idea that we must read “carefully” to learn lists of vocabulary, answer comprehension questions and build skills is called intensive reading.  The research suggests that extensive reading, with limited accountability for individual targets or skills, is more efficient that intensive reading.

One study by Mason found that literacy scores were significantly improved when “Accountability was minimal..Students were encouraged to read those books that were interesting to them, and were not required to finish every book they started” (2).

With Free Voluntary Reading, students will not be worried about perfect mastery or answering questions perfectly on a worksheet.  They will only focus on compelling, comprehensible messages.  This will build autonomous readers who love reading extensively whatever they choose.

When teachers accept that children will not “master” targets perfectly in class that day, over months and years, extensive Free Voluntary Reading will far exceed the limited gains from intensive reading.


Mason, B. (2004) Free Voluntary Reading and Autonomy in Second Language Acquisition: Improving TOEFL Scores from Reading Alone. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 2(1), 2-5.

Krashen, S.  (2011). Free voluntary reading. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Krashen, S. (2004, April).  Free voluntary reading: new research, applications, and controversies.  Paper presented at the RELC conference, Singapore.


Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

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