Pedro writes:

Hello Sr. Hedstrom,
Since attending a session at a California CI workshop back in 2019, I have loved using FVR in my classroom. As a matter of fact, I am including a couple of images to show how I can have as many as 90 titles on the wall of books written by language teachers for language learners.
Unfortunately, in our department, there are voices that maintain that we should only be using authentic sources – and consequently do not feel that it is manageable to maintain a library.
All I want is for my students to be exposed to the language for acquisition to occur. Do you have any research to back up the premise of FVR in the language class with the books that we’re using?
Thank you so much for the assistance.
Atentamente,  Pedro

Hi Pedro,

You’ve got a great FVR classroom library going there and you are doing it right. The case for self-selected reading of vocabulary-controlled readers is quite strong. To me it just makes sense.

How are your colleagues defining “authentic” sources? Reading materials that are “written by native speakers for native speakers” is one definition, but a better one is “materials written in the target language that students can authentically understand.”

We want students to read widely and deeply in L2, and the best way to get them there is with appropriate graded materials. Graded readers form the bridge that can lead students to “authentic” materials. I would like for my Spanish students to be able to read Don Quixote eventually. I would like for my Latin students to be able to read Cicero eventually. I want my 7-year old twin grandsons to read Shakespeare eventually. But forcing any of them to read these “authentic” materials right away would be discouraging and counterproductive.

Here are a few quotes about reading that may help to convince your colleagues:


“The use of authentic texts with learners often has an effect opposite to that intended: instead of helping the reader to read for the meaning of the message, an authentic text at too difficult of a level of language forces the reader to focus on the code.”

―Eddie Williams (1983). Communicative Reading. In K. Johnson and D. Porter (Eds.), Perspectives in Communicative Language Teachingp. 175

—Stephen Krashen, Foreign Language Education the Easy Way (1997), p. 34.

A textbook that is used in graduate level courses on methods of teaching world languages is Teaching Reading in Another Languageby I.S.P. Nation (aka Paul Nation) and Rob Waring (2019). It makes the case backed up by overwhelming research on nearly every page. If your colleagues would like to get that book, I would be happy to correspond with you all and do a book study on it.

These quotes about graded readers and FVR by SLA researchers will also help.

Here are some quotes that helped to convince me to use vocabulary-controlled readers with novice level students:


“Extensive reading, particularly of simplified readers, is often recommended as a good way of increasing vocabulary.”

―Saragi, (I.S.P. “Paul”) Nation, & Meister (1978). Vocabulary Learning and Reading. System, 6(2), p. 73.

The idea of teaching language with regular reading of language-leveled readers is not new.


“Incidental learning of words during reading may be the easiest and single most powerful means of promoting large-scale vocabulary growth.”

—Nagy & Herman (1987). Breadth and Depth of Vocabulary Knowledge: Implications for Acquisition and Instruction, in M.G. McKeown & M.E. Curtis (Eds.), The Nature of Vocabulary Acquisition, p. 27

“Picking up word meanings by reading is 10 times faster than intensive vocabulary instruction… the time is better spent reading alone.”

—Stephen Krashen (1993). The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research, p. 15.


“According to the research, students who do SSR typically gain at least as much on standardized tests as students who participate in traditional programs, and usually do much better if the program lasts long enough. SSR is ideal for the intermediate level but also can begin earlier.”

―Stephen Krashen (1997). Foreign Language Education the Easy Way, p. 26

Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) can begin as soon as students can independently read the materials in your physical or virtual classroom library. That can happen very quickly if they are taught the most common and useful verbs right away.

Picking up words on the side while reading for meaning is the enjoyable, painless, and uncomplicated way to increase student vocabulary. Language learners can get the massive vocabulary growth they need (9,000 base words) for high stakes school testing, business, travel and enjoyable interactions with native speakers just by reading. Extensive reading may be the ONLY way to do that efficiently. See this study by Darcy Pippins and Stephen Krashen for more on how extensive reading can be phenomenal for acquisition:

Independent reading is the ultimate in differentiation. Sometimes the reading gaps in a classroom are so wide it is hard to differentiate every lesson. Independent self-selected reading can take care of that.


“Numerous studies have found the most powerful motivator that schools can offer to build lifelong readers is to provide students with time in the school day for free voluntary reading.

―Kelly Gallagher (2009). Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, p. 75.

We are not just trying to get students through a course, if that were the case, we would be no better than the students that are only taking a course for credit. Rather, we are teaching reading in the target language in such a way that students will become lifelong readers

Those insights and many more are found in my book Hi-Impact Reading Strategies: How to Accelerate Fluency and Proficiency with Reading. It has those quotes and many others, plus specific guidance on teaching with reading and plenty of reading assessments.

The Spanish books we sell on are all vetted to be interesting and comprehensible to students: compelling input.

There are also great examples of the efficiency of graded readers from the ELL world. Hi-Lo readers have been around for 100 years. These are high interest / low reading level books: books whose content is appealing to adolescents, but written at a reading level that struggling readers can understand. Hi-Lo readers are commonly used not only with ELL students, but also with native English speaking students that are behind on reading. It is a common and valuable practice. Here is a company that sells hi-lo readers in English: as an example.


As far as not being able to manage a classroom library. It is doable. If it a matter of finances to buy books, this recent blog post will help.

I also recommend a revolving classroom job of “librarian”. These students keep the books straightened up, looking nice, and in the right categories. Keeping the classroom tidy and looking good shows students it is a special place. The librarian(s) can also help to alert you about damaged or missing books. They may also notice which books are more popular so you can get additional copies of those. All of these can help to manage the classroom library.

Do you think these points answer the concerns of your colleagues? I’d be happy to schedule a short Zoom meeting with your department to talk more about this. Perhaps we’ll be able to convince them!

Best regards,