I would go with a bunch of different books. Here’s why: Students acquire more language when they can choose their own reading materials. The free choice aspect gives them more buy-in and more engagement. When they can decide what they are going to read, they will tend to actually read, instead of just going through the motions or pretending to read, so I would go for a variety of books. Five copies of as many titles as you can get your hands on is a good goal–it lets students read the same books as a friend. The shared experience aspect of reading something together is powerful.
I recommend independent reading provided that you have enough influence with your students to get them to read. If your students have not read in the TL before, if classroom management is an issue, or if the school culture is not yet conducive to independent reading, then all of them reading the same book at once may be a better option to begin with. As soon as possible, add self-selected, silent reading to your regular classroom schedule. I suggest 10 minutes everyday at the beginning of every class.
The only exception to this ten minute guideline being when they ASK to read for a longer period of time, which will happen because it takes most people eight minutes to get focused. Once that happens, many students will want to keep reading.
Here is a list of quality graded readers by independent publishers (https://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/High-Interest-Easy-Readers-4.pdf). The highlighted ones are those that we sell–high quality materials by independent authors. These are self-published authors who are not connected to the big publishers. Please consider getting them from us at https://www.brycehedstrom.com/.
There are many aspects to the classroom management of self-selected reading. These practices will help you to pull it off if your students are new to this whole reading for pleasure and meaning thing:
1) Lead by Example. Sitting in front of students and reading silently is powerful. You can quietly lead by your own good example. Sit in front of the class and read as they are reading. Don’t sneak back to your computer. Read.
Don’t give in to the helpless hand wavers that are asking word meanings. “Just skip it,” is the best response to this. Pass out book marks like these to help silence the kids that are always asking for help: https://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/READING-REMINDER-BOOKMARKS-1.pdf
2) Teach High-Frequency Verbs. In lower levels, you can prepare students to read by teaching high frequency verbs early in the school year. Teach 3rd person, present tense verbs with classical TPR gestures, novel commands, and short stories.
These are the verbs they will see in novels. Students will be able to read on their won far faster than you would have dreamed if you teach them these verbs: https://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/IMPORTANT-VERBS.pdf
Even though the verbs on these lists are in the infinitive form, introduce them to your low level students in the ready-to-wear form of the third person, present tense, closely followed by the 1st person, present tense. In spanish, those two forms are the basis for many other verb forms,
3) Make the Goal Clear. Put up signs around your classroom so that students understand what you are trying to accomplish. Reading for pleasure is a foreign idea in most schools. Anxiety over high stakes testing has pushed too many of us into pushing reading as as onerous chore, rather than a joyful endeavor. You have to let students know that they should be picking materials that are comprehensible and interesting to them. They need to have it clear in their minds that they are actually reading for meaning, and not just going through the motions or preparing for tests.
Signs like these will help:
4) Measure Reading Occasionally. Do not ask students to fill out a form or report on their reading every time they read; that is the surest and quickest way to destroy the joy of reading.
Of course you are expected to get results and you want to know how they are progressing, but if you measure them every time they read then reading becomes a chore rather than a journey of exploration. Here are some ways to (occasionally) measure reading: