Some of you know these kids - slumped over, staring at the ceiling, yawning, until you get them going with something juicy - some gory detail, gross story, or lurid detail - suddenly the light switches on, their bodies snap to attention, they're all leaning forward, and you've know you've got them hooked.
How you tell your story - makes a difference, and for some kids - it's all the difference in the world. Look at the increased number of brain areas that light up when words are used in emotional in stead of neutral sentences. Examples of the sentences read were:
Neutral - He stood on the balcony and watched the tide.
Emotional - He stood on the balcony and watched the riot.
Books that provoke are often of the Xtreme variety - like the Horrible Histories series or other books in Incredible-But-True genres. History and Science particularly lend themselves to this, but if one employs controversies, unusual or unexpected facts, almost anything can become provocative.
It is true that not all life is lurid or extreme, but emotional information acts as the hook, then a lot of other learning follows. To discover a short story storyteller who's discovered this trick, read H.H. Munro's train story at the link below.
Emotional Context and fMRI
Teaching Tips from Berkeley
The Storyteller, by Saki