Okay, okay. Please don't give middle school boys coffee, or encourage them to move out of the house. I was writing figuratively. But, if middle school boys did have coffee tables...behold...the latest copy of the Guinness Book of Worlds Records would sit proudly atop it. AND it would be worn out.
Why? Have you opened that book lately? It has some cool pictures in there! You don't have to read the book from cover to cover. Hey, you don't even have to read it. You could just look at the pictures. You could. But, don't you want to know more about that lady with those wickedly long, curly fingernails? Gag. YES! I dare you not to read the captions and mini-articles.
Even the Surgeon General knows that teenage boys cannot live on Guinness alone. Here are a few other resources that capitalize on a similar appeal.
Other "coffee table books" for teens include Pick Me Up, Take Me Back, Open Me Up and Do Not Open. Oh, they are soooooooo cool! Please, please, please promise me that you will at least investigate them on line. Amazon will allow you to see sample pages before you buy. If one student opens this book in your class, a knot of readers will appear around him or her. It's one of those, "You've got to see this!" books, so be prepared for that to happen. Good luck keeping them quiet. They're finally talking about books. Be excited.
Owl magazine is also popular with students. They also provide a balance of great visuals, weird news, fun contests, reader input and interactive material. One of my favorite ways to use this magazine is by reading the "Would You Rather..." lists, letting the kids voice their opinions by a show of hands and then call on volunteers to explain their choices. For example, would you rather have the neck of a giraffe or the legs of a flamingo? Harmless stuff from a Canadian publisher. I've gathered up all of our back issues and allowed students to have a sustained not-so-silent reading time in pairs. It was fun to listen to for sure.
But what about the measurable stuff? Jamestown Publishers has a non-fiction series that I love: The Wild Side. Every high interest story comes with the standard questions that are near and dear to an English teacher's heart. Main idea, supporting details, drawing conclusions, making inferences, fact. vs. opinion, author's purpose, etc. Check it out here...http://www.glencoe.com/gln/jamestown/reading_nonfiction.html
In the real world, a variety of reading material sparks dialogue within a community. Let it happen in your classroom as well.
Note: Some of my strongest readers are young men. I am not, in any way, implying that all boys struggle with reading longer texts. That's not true. But, think about it. Like me, you are probably an avid and able reader. Don't you enjoy thumbing through a stack of magazines at the beach? Or, do you always bring your college Shakespeare textbook with you everywhere you go? Is there still a little bit of middle schooler in every adult that makes them marvel at the Guinness Book of World Records? Yep. Me too. And I'm a girl.