Free Reading in the time of Corona Virus

Everything about the 2020-2021 is weird and new and unlike anything we’ve ever done before. My Little Darlings are sitting in rows for the first time in my career. I’m wearing a mask and a microphone and sanitizing my hands like I’m going into surgery. Turn and Talk this year looks more like “Turn and holler at your neighbor from a safe distance”. Heck, I’m not even wearing my pre-quarantine pants this year!

So obviously Free Reading is in for a 2020 update as well. Free Reading, letting students choose the book they want to read without any assignments to bog them down, is perhaps the thing I love most about my classroom. I love it that the sky’s the limit for my high flyers…they can challenge themselves and read whatever they want. I love it that my reluctant readers are encouraged to shop and try out a book and abandon it and try again until they find their “home run book” as Mike Peto calls it. I love making book recommendations for my Little Darlings and I love that we have a system in place to start out class so calmly and peacefully. I love that my school has been very generous in buying us readers every year so my kiddos really have a lot of choice to find a book that’s just right for them. (I’ve got A LOT more to say about Free Reading! May I suggest a few blog posts if you’re ready to dive into the FVR Rabbit Hole? 6 Elements to incorporate into your Free Reading Program, Free Reading, Accountability and Cultural Detours and here’s a list of all the titles in my classroom library, organized by level if you’re a Spanish teacher looking to beef up yours!) And then stupid Corona Virus came along and ruined everything fun.

COVID -19, you’re not taking away Free Reading this year as well, but how do I give them choices, get them reading, and keep them from smearing their germs all over my books? Not to mention, this year Free Reading needs to work in the classroom AND be ready to switch into digital learning without any notice at all. Pretty tall order, huh?

After a lot of careful consideration, here’s what we’ll be doing. This is by no means the right answer…just what *I think* will work best for us, at my high school that’s starting out with a Hybrid Model, but heaven knows how long that will last! This year I’m teaching 3 different levels,  and since my kiddos at each level have different needs, our Free Reading program  will look different at each level too.

Level 1, my babies:

In a normal year, I read a novel with them all together (last year we loved Bart quiere un gato! ) during first semester, then turn them loose to begin Free Reading in January.  For them, I wanted the flexibility of online readers, and I am so delighted that there are so many options for us this year!  I ultimately decided to go with Mira Canion’s online FVR package, but below I’ve listed a bunch of other options. I’m planning on reading one of her books  as a whole class, then letting them choose what they want to read next semester. The package includes El capibara con botas, La perezosa impaciente, Agentes secretos y el mural de Picasso, El escape cubano, Tumba, Fiesta fatal, Los bucaneros y el Templo del Jaguar, Rival and for $258 for up to 300 students, that sounded like a great deal to me!  I haven’t taught any of these as a whole class novel…what do you suggest we do together first semester, starting in October or so? Need advice, please!

Some other subscription based Free Reading options:

I’m so thankful for the CI authors and publishers who worked all summer to make online FVR libraries a reality! Here are some options: Fluency Matters’s FVR package includes 13 titles for the Spanish collection and 10 for the French collection, at about $2 per student. (I ended up ordering this package for the other teachers in my department)  Jennifer Degenhardt’s FVR package is an amazing deal, at just $100 for up to 150 students, including 9 Spanish titles or 5 French titles. TPRS Books is offering their eLibrary for about $1 per student. Mike Peto’s library offers 50 titles in 6 languages for just $24.99 per book, per teacher for up to 300 students.  Tina Hargaden and Adam Giedd just launched an online reading app E-Lit available in French, Spanish and Japanese.   Martina Bex’s Garbanzo app is loaded with comprehensible readings and stories for $149 per year and the Maris/ Martina Dream Team is churning out comprehensible news articles for their biweekly newspaper El mundo en tus manos for just $90 for the year. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for making it easy to get your work into our germy students’ hands this year! 

Level 4, my “Big Little Darlings”

I’ve got a lot of books in my classroom, and only 50 or so Level 4s, so they’ll be reading real, actual books this year, with some new policies and procedures in place to keep everyone safe:


FVR2First things first: before they browse, they’ll sanitize their germy little hands and no licking of books will be permitted. My Spanish 4s are selecting 2 books this year, one to keep in the classroom, “reserved” only for them and the other to take home. My kiddos alternate between school and home every other day, and they’ll read in class AND at home. They can select 2 different books OR select 2 copies of the same book. They also have the option to pick the same book as their friends  and form a “Book Club” to read together during their digital days.  Students will “Check out” their book using this Google Form linked in Google Classroom OR using their phone with the fancy QR code:

After they “Check out” both books, they’ll keep one in their binder (which they leave in my classroom) and the other will go home, protected from the perils of the backpack in a gallon sized ziplock bag!

Once students finish their book OR they decide they want a new one, they’ll put a post-it on the cover with their name and the date, and drop it in our “Book Return Basket”. In accordance with our school district’s library policy, the books will “rest” 5 days before they’re put back into circulation. After 5 days, my lovely TA will indicate that the book has been returned on the Check Out Spreadsheet and then return it to the book shelves, ready for another germy teenager to read! Hopefully this system will help me keep better track of my beloved books. I mailed books to my Spanish 4s last spring during the closure, and there were a few…casualties 🙂

Update: I learned that books that are quarantining should be laid out flat and not stacked! Here’s a great article with links to the studies: Safe Use of Readers in Classrooms. 

Heritage 2, mis queridos:

First, I gotta tell you that my Heritage 2s have a very special place in my heart because I taught them all last year in Heritage 1. I’m so glad they’re back for more fun! For this class, they’re “reserving” their in-class free reading book using the same procedure as my Spanish 4s, and they have the option to check out an additional book to take home, if they want. As a class, we’ll be reading Cajas de Cartón this year, and fortunately our school has enough copies so that each student will get two, one to take home and one to keep in the classroom, in their binder. If we switch to 100% online, we’ll just press in hard into Cajas and take a Free Reading break for a while.

That’s my free reading plan…but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to be flexible! We’ll see how it goes 🙂 What’s your plan?!

Hey friends, wanna make it FaceBook Official?

Finally, I created a Señora Chase Facebook Account where we can carry on the conversation! It’s there I’ll talk teacher talk and I’d love for you to join the party!


  1. Hi! I was just planning to start with similar readers with my Spanish 1 newbies. I was thinking of trying Tumba with them around October, as the story centres around Día de los muertos.
    As a recent convert from more traditional teaching following a textbook curriculum in the UK, FVR isn’t something I’ve really tried before, so we’ll see how it goes!
    Thank you for the continued enlightenment!


  2. If you haven’t yet, check out Flangoo, it is a part of Teacher’s Discovery, and it is like “Netflix for books”. Has some good options for online reading and is affordable and fairly intuitive. Just another option!


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