SEM-R Phase 1: Book Hooks

In Phase 1 the emphasis is on exposure. Students are exposed to high-quality and high-interest literature of various authors, genres, topics, and themes through teacher read-alouds. The goal of these book hooks is to entice students to read the book in much the same way as movie trailers entice people to watch the movie. The book hooks also provide exposure to new ideas, author’s craft, and stimuli for discussion, which allow for higher levels of cognitive development. As part of these book hooks, teachers provide instruction in response to students’ readiness and interest through modeling, questioning, and discussion focusing on demonstrating reading strategies, self-regulation skills, and the use of higher order questions such as those provided in SEM-R bookmarks. These discussions may also serve as starting points for making multiple connections to other literature, disciplines, personal experiences, and prior knowledge. While the emphasis in Phase 1 is on exposure, some book hooks may emphasize different objectives such as guiding students to think critically, apply reading strategies in their independent reading (Phase 2), or to stimulate interest for further inquiry (Phase 3). It is important to be considerate of the range of abilities and interests represented in the classroom and expose students to an appropriate balance of books. This includes easier books for lower readers and books that will challenge even the most advanced reader. Teachers can also look for creative ways to conduct book hooks, such as inviting special guest readers, using internet resources, or allowing students to dramatize a scene.

Here are some brief tips to help you plan effective book hooks:

  • Before you read – Take Three!
    1. Exposure: Share why or how you chose the book (genre, author, topic, literary device?)
    2. Critical Thinking: Choose a reading strategy or question to guide your discussion.
    3. Connections: Consider links to other books, websites, art, experiences, activities, or projects.
  • Leave them wanting to hear more (e.g., cliffhangers, unanswered questions or moral dilemmas)
  • Model the use of reading strategies, advanced vocabulary, and supporting answers with text.
  • Be Dramatic! Effective variation of intonation, speed, and volume can draw students in.

Over the course of the year, the purpose and length of Book Hook sessions can vary. Early in the year, teachers may wish to focus more on generating enthusiasm toward reading and establishing classroom management and behavioral self-regulation procedures. Later in the year, teachers may emphasize stretching students with more challenging books and questioning, or focus on more specific learning objectives. Over the course of the year, connections can be made between the various books and concepts that have been introduced during Phase 1 to other content areas and student experiences. The length of the Book Hook session can vary depending on the objective for the day, but typically they should be between 10 and 15 minutes in duration.


Getting Started
Focus on exposing students to a wide variety of genres and authors and generating enthusiasm for reading.

  • Familiarize yourself with a few books from a wide variety of genres (including some non-fiction texts), authors, and reading levels.
  • Make connections to students’ interests and experiences when selecting books.
  • Select one of your favorite books to use for a book hook. Share with students why and how you first selected it to read.
  • Introduce students to the SEM-R bookmarks by incorporating some of the questions into your book hook. Explain to the students that they will also be able to use the bookmarks to ask themselves questions when they are reading.
  • Have a central goal or main emphasis for each book hook. Preparing in advance will allow you to make careful links between specific titles, sections to read, and your objective for the book hook.