Free Voluntary Reading: Beyond Just SSR


Free Voluntary Reading is simply pleasure reading.  Students who can read at least somewhat independently can use FVR as a bridge to advanced academic language (Krashen 2011, 8).  There are many ways to promote Free Voluntary Reading, and it is important to chose the right approach to FVR for your students.


Sustained Silent Reading

Sustained Silent Reading is the most flexible and simple approach to FVR.  Students self-select any book, magazine, blog, etc. and encourage them to put down text that is too hard or boring.  The less accountability, the more student autonomy, the better.

Literary Circles

Literary circles are just book clubs with self-selected books, voluntary, open discussion, and limited accountability.  Per Smith’s “integrative motivation,” reading as part of a “club” lowers the affective filter (Krashen 2010, 1; Krashen 2008 ).  Children who just sat there during SSR time feel peer pressure to read if they want to be a part of the club and interact with peers.  Stronger readers who find a book they are enthusiastic about can become good reading role models.  Directing learning by choosing books and directing the discussion helps children feel like they are leaders (Smith).  Here is more on how to get started when your students are ready.


Sheltered Popular Literature

Sheltered Popular Literature is similar to the traditional English Language Arts literature curriculum in that it uses literature to explore cultures, world perspectives, art, etc. (Krashen 2003, 26). Stephen Krashen envisioned this approach for the purpose of introducing students to good books, generating excitement for reading, and exploring topics of interest, available books, text, and other media.  Krashen notes that although “there is class discussion of the structure of genre…all reading is self-selected” high-interest, and can pull from any media, not just “classic” literature (2014, 4).


Trips to the library

Weekly trips to the school library can feel like a fun get-away, provide access to books and magazines, and make children more likely to go back and check out more on their own time.

Donalyn Miller says she models “giddiness” and excitement, counting down the days until school library visits which she has on a special calendar (2009, 83).  Before visiting the library for the first time, I go over expectations (with help from my Junior Librarians) and treat library time as a very special time.  Later, students self-reflect on their check out time.  My most responsible readers get a fancy VIP library patron card, longer due-dates, and double the number of books to check-out.


I schedule trips to the public library immediately before summer break as recommended by Krashen and Ramos in “The Impact of One Trip to the Public Library: Making Books Available May Be the Best Incentive for Reading.”   Children get the message: libraries are fun.


Junior Librarians

Strong classroom libraries are also important; displaying books with interesting covers in an appealing way takes little time but has a big impact (Chambers, 20).  Involve students  with Content-Based Instruction in Library Science, then practice running a classroom library.  Students can select books, arrange a display, or read aloud in L1/L2 or organize a special event for the classroom, school library, or even public library.   This could be a privilege for students with very good reading habits, and could help build leadership roles and send the message school-wide: ESL students are good readers.




 Chambers, A. (1996). The reading environment: How adults help children enjoy books. York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers
Krashen, S. (2003). Free Voluntary Reading: Still a Very Good Idea. Explorations in Language Acquistion and Use. 15-29. Retrieved from:

Krashen, S. (2008). The Comprehension Hypothesis Extended.  Piske, T. & Young-Scholten, M. Input Matters in SLA. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 81-94.
Retrieved from:

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

Krashen, S. (13 October 2014) Remarks on Language Acquisition and Literacy: Language Acquisition and Teaching, Free Reading, “Test-Prep” and its Consequences, The Use of the First Language, Writing, and the Great Native Speaker Teacher Debate. Presented at the Roundtable Discussion on English Teaching in Hong Kong.  Retrieved from:

Miller, D. & Anderson, J. (2009). The book whisperer: Awakening the inner reader in every child. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Morrow, L. (1996).  Motivating Reading and Writing in Diverse Classrooms: Social and Physical Contexts in a Literature-Based Program. National Council of Teachers of English, Research Report No. 28. Retrieved from:

Ramos, F. & Krashen, S. (April 1998). The Impact of One Trip to the Public Library: Making Books Available May Be the Best Incentive for Reading. Reading Teacher, 51(7): 614-15.

Smith, F. (1988). Joining the literacy club. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


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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