I researched and read a great deal about how to do it, and pulled in my background as an elementary reading teacher to set up a program. Here is (roughly) what I did to ensure success.
If you haven't read everything that Bryce Hedstrom has written about FVR and reading, stop reading now, click here, (scroll down to Establishing a free voluntary reading program) and read it. All. Bryce has assembled a vast collection of truly useful resources (for free, for other teachers, for the good of the kids) and I can not overstate the impact his teaching style and philosophy has had on mine.Then come back to read how I applied my learning.
Assembling a FVR library:
Thanks to a generous grant from a parent, I was able to purchase a LOT of books. I leveraged my grant and waited until a conference special, and bought as many books as I could carry. I also used the conference attendees as a resource. Brilliant teachers such as Karen Rowan and Alina Filepescu both made incredibly helpful suggestions in the moment as I was purchasing. I love this TPRS community!
I also print out copies of each and every story that we create in class and have been doing so for two years and have those in page protectors.
Many TPRS teachers offer their stories for free on TPT and/or through their blogs, and I always take advantage of printing those up and adding them.
Newspapers, magazines, phone books, and other community things get scooped up and added, and I inherited a bunch of stuff from another teacher.
Last, careful selection at Scholastic warehouse sales and Goodwill have earned me a good number of affordable non-fiction and very easy fiction. Remember though: most children's books are written at an intermediate-mid level or higher, so they aren't necessarily a great fit for novice readers.
FVR library organization:
Bryce Hedstrom and Mike Peto both have great resources for FVR library organization.
I approached the challenge of library organization like I did when I had an elementary classroom reading library: it neeeded to be organized, inviting, easy. I decided to remove all the bilingual books *for now*. I sorted children's books into very easy categories and used a simple bin/numbering system to keep it organized. This way it is really easy to see where books go back and it stays relatively organized.
Each book is tagged with our school's name, a bin number, and if it is a specific TPRS novel, the level (according to Bryce Hedstrom's great resource for leveling novels, click above and scroll down).
Here is a link to the bin categories and the labels that I use to label them. Velcro on the bins (bins from the dollar store) + velcro on the labels means that the bins can be reorganized easily as needed. Plus, you get a new book? Just figure out what number bin it goes on, label it, and add it. Easily expandable!
Day 1: I showed students this slideshow, courtesy of a brilliant Latin teacher, adapted from a similar slide show. The presentation is intended to show what 98%-95% comprehensible reading really is, and how the jump from 95% to 90% is really enormous.
I also showed some quotes from Bryce's excellent resource about reading; mostly quotes from Dr. Stephen Krashen, an influential researcher about second language acquisition and the power of reading.
Next, as a group, we looked at the library, discussed organization, and I had a couple of kids model browsing for books and taking them out. This last step seemed silly, but someone had suggested it (I am so sorry that I forgot who and can not attribute!) but I think it really helped.
Each kid got a bookmark and wrote their name on it; they can check out books (click here for my check-out form) overnight but they can also just leave their bookmark in the book and I won't let that one leave the building until it is read.
I gave the kids the expectations. They need to read, just read, and read. There is no accountability other than to list the books that they read.
Finally, I let them pick books and read. For 4 minutes. It was SO hard to stop them, but I wanted to leave them wanting more.
The following week I gave them 8 minutes. They were so happy and asked for more. The next week, they got 10, and yesterday, 15. I also am reading, per Bryce's great suggestion, and it just feels so very, very good.
I hope these resources are helpful to anyone else who wants to try FVR/SSR.