Sunday, February 26, 2017

Thank You CI Authors!

While reading a student novel last week, I had a deeper appreciation and realization of how fortunate we are, as second language teachers, to have a growing number of CI-focused authors that provide us with a steady stream of COMPREHENSIBLE and COMPELLING novels for our students. These authors have taken writing for second language learners to a new level.

However, not all novels written for second language learners are created equal; far from it! 

For several years I have been doing an activity with my students beyond level 3 called "Book Talks". Students choose a novel, read it, and then they sign up on the Book Talk calendar to talk with me in Spanish about the book. 

In order for me to talk about the books, I need to have read them, all of them. I've read the books from the authors that I know and those whose books are published by publishers that have a strong record of selling comprehensible and compelling books. However, there are a few books that I ordered from a world language catalog (it will remain unnamed), that I haven't read. I think it's fair to say I'm an optimistic person, and although I have been greatly disappointed with many of the novels from this source in the past, I continue to purchase a few books each year with the hopes that things will change for the better and I will find a few compelling and comprehensible books to add to my classroom library.

Well, last week I was "forced" to read one of those books, because a student signed up for a time to discuss her book and it was a new one that I had not yet read.  I spent my planning period reading the book and it was a painful experience. The story line was dull and predictable. As I was reading it, I felt as if the writer was specifically including words from a textbook vocabulary list and checking them off after the words were added to the story. Instead of being drawn into the story, I found myself time and again, checking to see how any pages remained. If I had to read more novels like that, I would lose my love of reading very quickly.

I look forward to talking to the student this week so I can guide her towards a more compelling story for her next novel.  She moved into our school district this year and had no experience reading Spanish novels on her own or in class. I want her to know that there are many books available at or below her level that are interesting and will be an enjoyable experience.

In my experience of reading novels specifically written for second language learners, I've learned that there are two types of books: 1) those that are written with the goal to use X number of vocabulary words, and 2) those that have an interesting story that the author has written in a manner that makes it comprehensible to the reader. When the author focuses on the story first, and works to develop the plot and the characters, they have a better chance of writing a book that students will find appealing. The STORY is the focus; making it comprehensible is the goal.  The second type of book is a treasure that the community of CI writers have shared with second language teachers. They use their gift in writing and our students benefit.

I originally wanted to write a list of authors whose books I would recommend without reservations, but I'm certain I would miss a few and I don't want to take that risk.  Instead, I'll suggest a few publishers and you will easily find dozens of compelling books at the websites. 

There are MANY compelling and comprehensible books available today, especially for Spanish teachers. Don't settle for ho-hum. 

Check out these publishers (listed alphabetically) or websites that tell you where to find books by independent publishers.  

CI Reading
Fluency Fast

Fluency Matters
Mira Canion
Sr. Wooly - new graphic novel
TPRS Books


1 comment:

  1. Comprehensible and Compelling. Two words that are very important in the foreign language classroom. I really agree with a lot of points that you make about the CI authors. They really go to great lengths to help make reading in a different language fun and engaging for students. I know that my mom, who is slowly learning Spanish, has often commented to me about some of the second language learning book. She has told me that the plots are as you said, predictable and not very interesting. Most of the time readings that we have to give to our students (through curriculum guidelines, and their low levels) are not something that they would actually choose to read. We want them to want to read and not just read for the sake of reading. I, unfortunately, think that the books in the unnamed world langauge catalogs do not often have the student's desires or interests in mind. It has only been proven time and time again that these creators of textbooks and readers are not focused on what students need or want, but rather what can get their books sold!

    I love the TPRS Books and I also like the Fluency Matters ones as well. They are both great resources for teachers and they can help us create libraries for our students that are educational and engaging. Or as you so eloquently put it Comprehensible and Compelling!