Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Using Picture Books with Teens to Develop Media Literacy: Facts vs. Opinions. vs. Robots by Michael Rex

Picture books are just for kids, right? Wrong! My friend and fellow librarian Amianne Bailey has long been a proponent of using picture books with teens. In fact, she has written about that on her blog and shares a list of books that she recommends sharing here. She has a thriving group of young readers at her high school and though they read a lot of great YA, they’re not afraid of a picture book.

SLJ: Not Just for the Pre-K Crowd: Picture Books for Tweens and Teens

This past week I came across one of the most perfect – and timely – picture books to share with teens.

There’s a lot of political discourse happening in our world right now and some of it boils down to this: not everyone seems very clear on what the difference is between a fact and an opinion. But do not fear! These super cute robots are here to help us figure that out.

Which robot is the most fun? Well, that would be an opinion. And if we have a difference of opinion on this subject, that’s okay. We can still be friends. I mean, I still love my teenage daughter even though she had the audacity to proclaim that Foo Fighters music was trash. I thought about disowning her, but then I remembered that a difference of opinion doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. Or family.

Facts, however, are different. And I think it’s important that we talk about facts, where to find them, how to cite them, and how to talk about them with others. Granted, not all of that information is in this book. But this book is a really solid starting point for that conversation.

There are also a lot of fun things you can do with this book, because robots are cool. You can do a tech take apart program and make new robots using the pieces. You can even then make your own digital media version inspired by the Michael Rex book.

If that seems to complicated, you can do a simple exquisite corpse robot using a sheet of paper and markers. To make an exquisite corpse, you fold a sheet into thirds and have three people each drawing a section of the robot without seeing the other sections. You can find some examples and instructions here. This is also a great poetry month activity as each person can add a line to a poem in the same fashion.

You can make robots and use them to make stop motion movies, take photos of your robots use digital media to create memes, or just decorate your classroom or teen area. Playing on the idea of robots, facts and opinions would be a lot of fun.

And since this is an election year, you can take your robots to the polls. Vote for robot president. Or is it overlord? Robots probably have overlords, that sounds more dramatic. Ask your tweens and teens to pose the same types of questions about their robots that you find in the book and keep talking about facts vs. opinions. Because this is a really important conversation.

Understanding the basic premise of what, exactly, is the difference between a fact and an opinion is the cornerstone of developing media literacy in our tweens and teens. When introducing this topic, this picture book would be a really great thing to share.

Youth Media Literacy Toolbox

But let me end this discussion by saying something really important. It seems on the surface that this conversation is a no brainer, but the reality is that we are living in a day and age when science and expertise is being regularly ignored and debased. I think it’s also important that we acknowledge that some opinions are, in fact, less valid than others because no human being should have to defend their right to exist or their basic civil rights.

So while I think this book is a fun and necessary introduction to important conversations and I think that everyone should be reading it, I hope that the conversations don’t end there.