Books
Books for Kids
Magazines
BMX Plus

Grades: 7-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Moderate

Website: http://bmxplusmag.com/

This is the magazine for kids who love performing tricks with their bicycles and dream of someday joining the riding circuit. The magazine does encourage aggressive bike riding but virtually all the pictures show the riders wearing helmets and protective gear. Much of the bike riding featured in this magazine will need to be performed on a special course or bike park or anywhere a concrete surface has steps or curves or unique surfaces. Thus, in the kids’ minds, almost anywhere is fair game. Of course, many city managers and administrators wish kids would take their bicycles somewhere else, besides the town square.

Overall: Kids who love doing tricks on their bikes will enjoy this magazine. As a bonus, your middle school kids will have to work hard to generate the speed and balance necessary for many of the tricks. This sport does require a certain level of athleticism. Three Stars ★★★

Boys Life

Grades: 5-8

Level of Reading Difficulty: Low

Website: http://boyslife.org/

Boys Life has been around for a long time. I even remember reading this magazine when I was a middle schooler. Consequently, Boys Life has stood the test of time, which very few magazines can lay claim to. Boys Life has also clearly figured out how to attract the attention of the modern middle school mind because the magazine is filled with pictures, short stories, and articles which are high interest to the fifth through eighth grader. The topics covered in the magazine are eclectic, ranging from athletics to cool gear to the outside world to iconic national landmarks. Each issue also has puzzles, comics, and activities to further engage kids.

Overall: For boys this is an excellent magazine. Much of the contents also apply to girls but they won’t like the name of the magazine. Five Stars ★★★★★

Cloth Paper Scissors

Grades: 5-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Low

Website: http://www.clothpaperscissors.com/

This magazine will help give your middle school kid some ideas on what they can make with—you guessed it—cloth, paper, and scissors. Middle school kids of all ages will enjoy looking through this magazine while getting ideas for things they can make which won’t cost you a lot of money. Some kids will not like this magazine because they will consider it “girlish” but this is the perfect time to talk with them about stereotypes and the fact that lots of guys are very successful in the arts business.

Overall: This is a very good magazine to help get your child away from video games and the electronic screen. There are some really cool ideas your middle school child can make with common things lying around the house. You will, of course, probably end up buying some materials. Five Stars ★★★★★

Cricket

Grades: 5-8

Level of Reading Difficulty: Moderate

Website: http://www.cricketmagkids.com/

Cricket is a magazine for kids who love to read and write. The magazine has been around a long time and is considered to be a necessity in many middle school libraries and media centers. Each edition usually includes short stories, poems, nonfiction articles, folk tales, information about writing contests for kids, crossword puzzles, letters to the editor, and cartoons. In addition, the magazine is stocked with enough pictures and graphics and art work to capture the attention of all ability levels.

Overall: This is the must-have magazine for middle school kids who thrive on writing and reading. Five Stars ★★★★★

Discover

Grades: 7-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Moderate to High

Website: http://discovermagazine.com/

Discover is mostly a general science magazine which also brings in topics related to health, history, medicine, and the latest in technology. The magazine seems to spend more time on articles dealing with space than a general science curriculum would. The editors insert a generous supply of pictures, charts, graphs, and maps to help middle school kids understand some fairly complex topics. This is a magazine not intended for middle school kids but some middle school kids will really enjoy the articles. Never underestimate the power of pictures and captions as a learning tool, even on dense topics.

Overall: If your goal is to have your middle school child enjoy and understand science, leaving a copy of Discover around the house isn’t a bad idea. Four Stars ★★★★

Electronic Gaming Monthly

Grades: 7-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Low

Website: http://egmmediagroup.com/EGMMagazine

This magazine focuses on all types of electronic games, including computer, Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, phone, and tablets. Thus, if you determine your middle school child must have a gaming magazine, this one covers almost anything, which is not what most gaming magazines do—they typically focus on one platform, such as Xbox. This magazine is heavily graphic-driven and most of the writing is done in paragraphs, rather than full page text. The magazine does include reviews and promotional digs for electronic games that are inappropriate for all middle school kids so you will have to take that into account. (The number of middle school kids playing electronic games marked with “M” for Mature is staggering.)

Overall: Electronic games do little to advance thinking skills and most middle school kids spend way too much time playing video games, but if you think your child must have a magazine about video games, this one might work. One Star ★

Field and Stream

Grades: 7-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Moderate to High

Website: http://www.fieldandstream.com/

This is the magazine to get for kids who have grown up in hunting families or who wish they had a family who hunts. This magazine isn’t written for middle school kids and some of the vocabulary will be completely alien to them. For example, if your child hasn’t grown up in a hunting culture they may not know things like what is a Winchester XPR .30/.06 with a 2x – 8x scope. Articles cover the vast arena of hunting and fishing and the magazine is very easy on the eye with lots of pictures and graphics.

Overall: Some parents will be horrified that I’m recommending this magazine but for some kids and families, this is a good choice for helping to teach responsible hunting and fishing for middle school kids. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your kid is to take them outside hunting and fishing. Three Stars ★★★

GamesTM

Grades: 8-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Moderate to High

Website: http://www.gamestm.co.uk/

Unless you are insanely rich, you probably won’t be ordering a subscription to this magazine for your middle school child. The magazine is printed in Great Britain, hence the stratospheric cost of ownership. But the local library might have this magazine, or you can try to pressure them into ordering it. GamesTM will be inappropriate for most middle schoolers—partly because of the level of reading skills necessary to understand the magazine but mostly because the magazine focuses on adults. Thus, many of the games discussed will be rated “M” for Mature and electronic games will be reviewed and discussed. The evidence is overwhelming that middle schoolers who play lots of electronic games designed as “M” for Mature end up with weaker social skills and poorer communication skills than kids who don’t play these games. And don’t believe the nonsense that kids learn lots of useful stuff from playing video games. They don’t.

Overall: If you are convinced your middle school child will someday run a major electronic gaming company or develop code exclusively for games, this is a must-have magazine. Otherwise, save your money. Two Stars ★★

Girls Discovery

Grades: 5-7

Level of Reading Difficulty: Low

Website: http://www.discoverygirls.com/

This is a girls magazine so most boys won’t want anything to do with it. The magazine is very attractive to middle school girls, especially those who are younger. Whoever edits this magazine has scored a direct hit with what attracts girls. The contents include advice for girls, magazine and book recommendations, letters to the editor, how to make food, girls and athletics, features on girls who have a positive outlook on life, spreads on modern musicians, how to develop social skills, fashion and make-up hints, and history as it relates to girls. Girls provide ideas and suggestions for each issues, not adults trying to market products.

Overall: This is one of the better all-around magazines for middle school girls. It avoids some of the stupid, vapid, and silly things which dominate magazines for young girls. This magazine actually has positive messages about creating and keeping girl power. Five Stars ★★★★★

Girls’ Life Magazine

Grades: 8-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Low

Website: http://www.girlslife.com/

This is essentially a fashion magazine for girls, giving them ideas on what to wear and what they should put on to be part of the cool crowd. There are also lots of ideas and suggestions for what to do with your hair and make-up tricks. There are advice columns which are really very good—because some of them deal with boy-girl relationships. With older middle school boys and girls there is no getting around relationship issues—they must be dealt with head-on because if kids don’t get good advice from adults and other sources—like magazines—they are going to get it from somewhere else, and the advice will not be nearly as good. However, don’t be deceived because this magazine will also give lots of advice for girls on how to “snag” that special boy and have that “first kiss.” This magazine also has lots of pop culture for kids—such as movie stars and good books to read.

Overall: Fashion, pop culture, make-up, and body image are what this magazine is all about. There are some redeeming qualities but not many. Two Stars ★★

How it Works

Grades: 5-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Moderate

Website: http://www.howitworksdaily.com/

This is one of the better magazines you can get into the hands of middle school kids. Why? It’s because the magazine is picture and graphic rich and covers a wide range of topics, including science, the environment, technology, transportations, history, and space. Think of How it Works as being as close as middle school kids are ever going to get to a liberal arts education, solely from a magazine. How it Works is a British publication, so if you order a subscription for middle school kids, it won’t be cheap, but when you compare the price of an annual subscription to the price of one new Xbox or Playstation game, it suddenly won’t seem expensive. This magazine will help kids understand things they haven’t even thought about.

Overall: If I had to pick one magazine that benefits all middle school kids of all ability levels, How it Works might be the one. It’s very expensive but ignorance costs more in the long run. Five Stars ★★★★★

Ideas and Discoveries

Grades: 5-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Moderate to High

Website: http://www.ideasanddiscoveries.com/

At first glance, Ideas and Discoveries is a rather strange magazine. The topics appear to be random and come from every conceivable academic discipline. In the back issue I’m looking at as I write this review, there are stories on the latest destroyer built by the J.S. Navy, how venom works if you are bitten by a snake, the tectonic plates of California, how hackers break into cell phones, the underwater rocket propulsion of penguins, the illusion of perception, how waves are created, serial killers, galaxies, the Israeli Special Forces, and coincidences in history. It’s quite a broad array of topics, somewhat not surprising given the name of the magazine. The topics are interesting, the pictures plenty, and the inclusion of nifty graphics makes this an attractive magazine which has tons of learning materials for middle school kids

Overall: This is the magazine you’ve never heard about that is, from a learning perspective, very good for middle school kids. Five Stars ★★★★★

Make it Yourself

Grades: 5-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Low

Website: http://goo.gl/QAbUla

This magazine, an offshoot of Better Homes and Gardens, is a hand and home crafter’s delight. Is it raining outside and are your middle school kids driving you crazy because they are “bored?” Give them a copy of this magazine and tell them to make something. Each magazine has lots of ideas for making craft projects with glue, cloth, paper, fabric, stamping, sewing, knitting, embroidery, cross-stitching, and quilting. You may end up visiting your local craft store on a regular basis after getting a subscription to this magazine, but from a learning, creativity, and intellectual point of view, your money is better spent there than on the latest Xbox or Playstation game. This magazine will also help your child learn to follow directions.

Overall: This magazine won’t be for everyone but a big hit for others. Five Stars ★★★★★

Make

Grades: 7-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: High

Website: http://makezine.com/

This is a mechanical, electronic, 3-d printing, manufacturing, robotics, and Maker camp devotees delight. Any middle schooler who likes assembling things, figuring how things work, and who is fascinated at the idea of building robots and tinkering around with electronic projects, art projects, or literally any other type of project that kids can more-or-less build from scratch, will like this magazine. The Maker movement is a widespread movement which tries to help kids (and adults) become more technologically, artistically, and creatively involved in “making” things. The Maker movement is a cluster of activities which began long before this magazine appeared, but this is a great pick to help kids have fun tinkering and putzing around.

Overall: As a middle schooler, a young Thomas Edison would have loved receiving this magazine. Five Stars ★★★★★

National Geographic

Grades: 7-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Moderate to High

Website: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/

National Geographic has been around for a long time and there is a good chance you know someone who has hoarded years of issues and stored them in their attic, convinced they would someday be worth something. As it has turned out, back issues of National Geographic have not become a rarity—because nearly everyone saved their back issues and thus no scarcity existed. However, this does not mean middle school kids should not have access to this magazine.

National Geographic speaks to middle school kids because of the extensive use of photographs and tables and charts. These will make sense to many middle school kids even though some of the vocabulary used in the articles and geographical references will be difficult for them. The magazine’s wide array of topics—from science, history, sociology, geography, arts, and the humanities, give it wide appeal as a generalist magazine for kids. There is a middle school version of this magazine, but high-achieving middle school kids will find it too “elementarish.”

Overall: Kids need to learn about the world around them. Why not go with a reliable and trusted source like National Geographic? Five Stars ★★★★★

New Moon Girls

Grades: 5-8

Level of Reading Difficulty: Low

Website: http://newmoon.com/

This is a really good magazine for middle school girls. It has the usual advice columns and letters to the editor, but what sets it apart from most magazines for girls is that it avoids the People Magazine effect, in which the vast bulk of the magazine’s interior pays homage to pop culture music, television and movie stars. New Moon Girls has educational qualities to it. For example, there are articles and pictures on healthy eating, nature and physical activity, arts and crafts, international feature stories, scavenger hunts, and short stories and poetry written by middle school girls.

Overall: This is one of the best magazines available for middle school girls. Five Stars ★★★★★

Outside

Grades: 5-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Moderate

Website: http://www.outsideonline.com/magazine

Outside is an adult magazine which is still great for kids who love the outdoors, especially camping, hiking, rock climbing, camping, orienteering, mountain biking, surfing, hunting, fishing, sailing, and for those who have a wanderlust to see “what’s out there.” Because this magazine targets adults, there are adult-oriented ads in the magazine—mostly those encouraging people to buy a certain type of beer—but it’s far less beer advertising your child will be exposed to when they watch the Super Bowl on television. Because of the nature of some of the step-by-step instructions in many features, this magazine will help your child learn to follow directions.

Overall: I like this magazine because it will encourage middle school kids to get off the sofa and actually do something outside. It’s common knowledge that our kids are too fat and badly out of shape. Outside will help reorient their priorities. As a bonus, kids will learn something about the world they live in as the magazine features articles about events and people from a global perspective. Five Stars ★★★★★

OWL

Grades: 5-7

Level of Reading Difficulty: Low

Website: http://www.owlkids.com/magazines/owl/

This magazine is a mishmash of activities with a sprinkling of very short—think paragraph here—articles with topics ranging over anything remotely interesting to younger middle school kids. OWL is primarily an activity-based magazine, complete with calendars, comics, recipes, crossword puzzles, fun facts, guess-what-animal-is-in-the-picture, matching games, Sudoku, building projects, how-to-do contests, word finds, quizzes, and brain busters. Overall, it’s an eclectic magazine filled with colorful pages, charts, pictures and designs.

Overall: This is a very good magazine for younger middle school kids. It is attractive and interesting and avoids being solely immersed in pop kid culture, like some other mind-numbing magazines. Five Stars ★★★★★

Popular Mechanics

Grades: 7-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Moderate to High

Website: http://www.popularmechanics.com/

Adults—mostly guys—have been reading Popular Mechanics for years. Technology and gear-focused minds have found this magazine to be a reliable source for information on electronics, machines, technology, and science. The magazine has become more picture and graphic friendly over the years, thus making it more readable for older middle schoolers. If kids seem to be attracted to engineering type activities, Popular Mechanics will be well received, even though some of the concepts and vocabulary will be over their heads. Additionally, kids interested in science and technology will like to flip through the pages of this magazine.

Overall: A good choice for older middle school kids who like to play with mechanical things. Three Stars ★★★

Seventeen

Grades: 8-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Low

Website: http://www.seventeen.com/

Seventeen is probably one of the most common fashion, relationship, and pop culture magazines found in libraries for teens across the United States. It is also one of the oldest teen magazines around. The magazine does have an intellectual side—there are book recommendations and articles on girl power and developing self-confidence but the bulk of the magazine will do nothing to solve global problems. For example, each issue gives advice on how to talk to girls and guys, how to get a date, how to tell if your “hottie” is interested in you, and monthly horoscopes.

Overall: My main complaint with this magazine and others which are similar, is that they glorify movie and music superstars and send a not-so-subtle message to the reader that to fit in and be cool you have to dress, act, and look a certain way. Are we surprised so many teens are superficially focused and have body and self-image problems? Two Stars ★★

Skateboarding

Grades: 5-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Low

Website: http://www.skateboardingmagazine.com/

If you have a skateboarding son or daughter, this is the best magazine available for them. There are others, but they tend to portray skateboarding as a rebellious, in-your-face activity. Who needs that? Skateboarding is the magazine for most middle school kids. Oddly enough, many of the pictures and articles in this magazine will contain older men and women—high teens into their thirties—because some of the better known skateboarders will be in that age bracket. The magazine is heavily photo based and it’s not uncommon for 80% of the total pages to be taken up by photographs.

Overall: To the relief of many parents, Skateboarding doesn’t present skating as a deviant activity, luring middle school kids into a life of crime and defiance of adults—or so the stereotype goes. Three Stars ★★★

Smithsonian

Grades: 8-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: High

Website: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/

Smithsonian may be the perfect match for older middle school kids who are interested in science, culture, and history. The focus of the magazine—not surprisingly—is similar to what you might find when visiting the enormous Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. This magazine is more text dense than most magazines I recommend so I don’t suggest middle school kids who struggle with their reading skills pick up this magazine on a regular basis. They will be frustrated at the vocabulary and sentence structure and hate reading even more. But kids with high reading levels may find this magazine to be of interest. The focus of Smithsonian often is on articles which merge science, history, and culture together. Thus, this magazine has an interdisciplinary feel to it.

Overall: A high level of reading skills is necessary for most middle school kids to understand the content. Three Stars ★★★

Sports Illustrated for Kids

Grades: 5-8

Level of Reading Difficulty: Low

Website: http://www.sikids.com/

If you think of Sports Illustrated for Kids as being a middle school version of the wider published Sports Illustrated, you’d be exactly right. The articles are shorter and there are more stories about high school athletes, with a smattering of articles relating to even younger kids, but the essence of the magazine remains the same. Coverage is focused on the major sports and a bonus for Sports Illustrated for Kids is that women’s sports is more extensively covered than in the parent magazine.

Overall: Sports lovers will dig this magazine. Four Stars ★★★★

Teen Vogue

Grades: 8-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Low

Website: http://www.teenvogue.com/

This is a popular magazine for upper middle school and high school girls. If your goal is to raise a popular, attractively dressed, follower of all the current make-up trends, and potential future Miss America, then Teen Vogue is the perfect match for both you and your daughter. If your goal is to create an intelligent, dynamic, personable, and thoughtful girl, then you need to look elsewhere. Teen Vogue is all about fashion, make-up, and the western commercialization and sexualization of women. Girls who look often at this magazine risk never being happy about their clothes, looks, and physical features because Teen Vogue is all about pointing out what they don’t have and how they should look to be popular and likeable.

Overall: Beauty and brains don’t connect in this magazine. There are lots of better magazines for middle school girls. Two Stars ★★

Time

Grades: 7-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: Medium

Website: http://time.com/

I’m going to get criticism from some adults for even including Time as something to be considered for middle schoolers, but I think we make a mistake by assuming magazines written for adults will never be interesting for middle schoolers. We also make mistakes by never allowing our younger kids the opportunities to read and learn about topics we think are for adults. But how are kids going to learn about international news and events and news items which are currently popular, if they are never exposed to them? Time isn’t written at a college-level reading plateau and has lots of pictures, graphics, and charts which make it far more interesting to page through than it was 20 or 30 years ago. If your middle schooler spends 15 minutes a week paging through Time the money will have been well spent.

Overall: At first blush, this magazine doesn’t make sense as a recommendation for middle school kids, but do all magazines given to middle school kids have to be specifically written for them in order for kids to benefit? I don’t think so. Three Stars ★★★

Wired

Grades: 7-9

Level of Reading Difficulty: High

Website: http://www.wired.com/

Wired focuses heavily on cutting edge technology, which has been or will be adapted by the masses. The reading level required of Wired will render the magazine unreadable for many middle school kids, but those who have high school reading skills and a fascination with technology-related gadgets will really like this magazine. Wired is filled with pictures, charts, infographs, tables, and diagrams, which will help middle school kids enormously, even if they don’t have all of the vocabulary down.

Overall: A bit of a reach for most middle school kids but a home run for those with high reading skills and fascination with where consumer technology is heading into the future. Three Stars ★★★

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