Classroom Library Exploration in Heritage Spanish Class

Are you looking for a fun, low-maintenance way to begin class? Would you prefer if the time was spent doing something educational? Do you want to streamline the beginning of class and add structure and routine to your schedule? If properly executed, free voluntary reading can be the solution to all of these questions, and more!

Free voluntary reading is an especially vital spark in heritage Spanish classrooms. Acquiring a classroom library filled with attractive books in Spanish across the various genres and topics of interest takes time, but once you have the library established, it is well worth the investment in effort and time. 

Now, once the classroom library is procured, make sure you give students time to explore the array of books collected for them! Having a classroom library is one thing, but getting student buy-in is a whole other beast. 

Reading is Cool

Oftentimes reading isn’t seen as “cool” in the eyes of students and peers. But, students must be taught, and we have all needed guidance towards the good things in life. It’s up to us teachers to make reading cool, or at least a neutral activity. Sometimes attraction to an activity takes hold immediately, but let’s be honest, the best things in life require time and consistent exposure.

books in Spanish blue bookshelves

If I impress one thing onto you in this blog post, is that if at first you don’t succeed (in fostering interest and love for reading in your classroom), read and read again! Reading for leisure is a life skill, a coping mechanism and form of transportational entertainment all wrapped into one. It’s easy to dismiss that which you do not regularly do. But if students get the sense that this activity is here to stay, their minds will slowly open to it. Eventually, they’ll give it an honest try, and I have yet to meet a student that wouldn’t read some type of book. 

Try your level best to impart that any student of yours never needs to feel embarrassed about enjoying a good book. Reading is cool, whether they understand this in real time, or not! Not all reading needs to be for educational purposes, but all reading (whether conscious or not) educates in some way, shape or form.

Even though I have an extensive classroom library built with grant funds, students don’t take time to browse my shelves unless I set aside time where they are instructed to do so. Teenagers care deeply about peer opinions due to a combination of heightened social awareness and intense identity development. 

teenage girl looking at books in blue bookshelves

A potent mix as such, combined with the prevalence and invasive nature of social media makes their peers’ judgements feel like the end of their world. This is one of those areas where intuitive teachers play an outsized role in their student’s growth arcs. As teachers, we must accept the role of ensuring and restoring equilibrium to our classrooms back towards the things that will encourage the most health for our students. I would posit, casual and enjoyed reading is one of those areas that can bring balance to a troubled soul, at any age. 

Students are rarely aware of their entire self, I mean, who was fully self-aware at age 14-18? If we can equip students to enjoy reading it can actually be a vital tool for navigating their tumultuous journey of self-discovery. Adolescence can be a whirlwind of emotions, anxieties, and uncertainties. By diving into a captivating narrative, teenagers find a temporary escape from the pressures of everyday life. 

That’s one of the most beautiful aspects of literature and consuming written words: our mind is forced to depart from our current situations, and seeks to understand all the new data and ideals it’s being presented. Once a student enters into a good book, they’ve created space from the immediacy of the current world, and their mind receives a chance to do some housekeeping and analysis of itself.

graphic novel in Spanish

They can lose themselves in fantastical worlds, empathize with relatable characters, see the world in a new light or from a new vantage point and discover solace in the rhythm of words… away from screens. Convincing students to buy into this is the task at hand, because they don’t know what they don’t know. 


Wishlist Worksheet

When you are just getting started with free voluntary reading in your class, I strongly suggest using this worksheet to fully roll out and properly introduce your classroom library to your students. Set aside class time over the course of a week, so that smaller groups of students are able to browse the library. 

worksheet for heritage Spanish class lectura libre

Free Download:

Introduction to FVR Worksheet

The most important thing to keep in mind is that our brains are associative. It would be such a shame to find your students are passively turned away from the library area, as their first impression was a huddled mass of critical, cutting group-think opinions.

Left to their own devices, students in a group will usually turn frantic, manic, or disengaged apathetic as students all crushed in together to figure out which books were the coolest; or, they all sat back, not wanting to be the first one to approach the library.

All books have the potential to be cool, but a smaller group size provides a higher chance for each student to make up their own mind on what they desire to read. A great time to do this is when the class has another assignment they are working on that keeps them busy.

el libro del cementario

Students that browse the library need to find ten titles they are interested in reading, over the course of the year, to fill in and complete their worksheet. Set a timer so that students don’t just quickly fill in book titles at random so that they aren’t the last one up there from their group. The goal is Make sure they know they need to continue browsing the whole library until the timer goes off. 


More Ideas

A love of reading is a priceless treasure that lasts a lifetime. This skill will help students in many seasons of life, whether it’s delving into academic texts, pursuing professional development, or simply enjoying a captivating novel. Of course you already know this!

This FVR wishlist and tracking sheet is a fun way to inspire students to love books. 

FVR tracking sheet

You can also use these classroom binder worksheets as a fast-finisher activity in class or as an optional handout for students that like to organize their school materials at the beginning of the year. 

Classroom Binder Spanish Class

I know the task of hooking your students on reading can seem insurmountable. But let’s not forget the prize at the end of this uphill climb: students ignited by the magic of stories, their imaginations set ablaze by worlds beyond their screens. It’s a long journey, an uphill battle, yes, but the impact of seeing a student discover the joy of reading, experiencing the transformation in their eyes as they light up and connect deeply with a story – that’s a victory worth every ounce of effort. Sometimes it just takes the right book to get a student interested. 

If you want to learn more about how to get set FVR routines, check out this blog post.  

And if you are looking for book recommendations, you can find those here

Free Download:

Introduction to FVR worksheet

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Classroom library exploration in heritage Spanish class