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Read Wild: Shark Week!

Happy Shark Week!  Last week I spent some time out on a local whale watching trip, but sadly we didn’t see any whales (or sharks).  It was the only trip this summer that they didn’t see any whales.  Maybe I’m bad luck? 

Luckily, Shark Week in NJ is always fun, especially for those of us who live along the Jersey Shore.  The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 get a lot of play during the summer months.

The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 even get highlighted in the popular juvenile fiction series I Survived

Shark Week is a little crazy these days (so many celebrity shark shows!), but sharks are still some of the most fascinating creatures in the ocean.  Why not spend some time this summer reading about these amazing creatures?  

The Line Tender by Kate Allen is one of the best books I’ve read this year.  It straddles that mystical line between upper middle grade and the entry into young adult books.  Lucy’s mom, a marine biologist who studied sharks, died a few years ago. Since then, it’s been Lucy and her dad taking care of each other.  When tragedy once against strikes Lucy, she becomes fiercely devoted to a shark research project her mother was heading up before her death. Full of gorgeous illustrations and lots of cool shark info, this is a perfect read for Shark Week! Plus, it works great with some of the current shark sightings in and around Cape Cod.  

Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916 by Michael Capuzzo is a heart-pounding narrative nonfiction RIDE.  In 1916 the Jersey Shore was a resort paradise that people from all over the country (and even world) visited.  Over 12 days in July, everything changed. A shark (likely a great white), attacked five people and killed four of them.  One of the attacks took place ten miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean! This obviously set off wave of panic that led to shark hunts aimed at eliminating the shark(s).  This isn’t a book I’d recommend reading on the beach….

Speaking of great whites……Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy is a must-read this Shark Week.  Katherine Roy was lucky enough to visit California’s Farallon Islands in 2012 to observe  the great white sharks that migrate there to dine on seals. The islands can only be visited by scientists, so Roy’s book provides a rare glimpse of these sharks in their natural habitat.  This is a stunning book that will enthrall children and adults this Shark Week.

And last but not least, you could always read Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” and then watch Jaws! Ibsen’s play, about the effects of pollution on a small town,  influenced Peter Benchley’s Jaws and, of course, the movie of the same name.

Applying Information Literacy Skills to Shark Week

The Jensens love Shark Week. Or maybe, Thing 2 and I love Shark Week and the rest of the Jensens just humor us because what are you going to do. We kicked off Shark Week this year with another great Shark Week party in which The Teen, who decided this summer to try her hand at baking, made shark cookies. And The Mr., who was an art major in college, sculpted a shark out of watermelon. It was epic, if I do say so myself.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about Shark Week viewing and how it requires a bit of information literacy skills. You see, not all Shark Week viewing is created equal and there is an important distinction. Shark Week is a great opportunity to take something fun and interesting and use it to help our youth think about and develop basic information literacy skills.

Let’s start with the movie Jaws, a movie that the Jensens watch every Christmas Eve because nothing says Merry Christmas and Joy to the World like a movie about a shark terrorizing a beach on the 4th of July weekend. Although I’m a big fan of the movie, it did have negative consequences for the world’s shark population. It created such a fear in viewers that sharks had far more reason to fear humans than humans had to fear sharks. Peter Benchley, the author of the novel Jaws, was so disturbed by the negative impact that the book had on our shark populations that he dedicated the rest of his life to shark conservationism.

What does all this have to do with information literacy and Shark Week? The ways in which sharks are depicted in media can and has had negative impact on our oceans and teaching our youth to be discerning viewers and information gatherers makes all the difference. Here are some of the things that I talk about with youth when discussing Shark Week.

Language Matters: Beware of Shark Week Shows that Refer to Sharks as Monsters, a discussion on loaded terms

Sharks are not monsters and this type of language is loaded and intended to prey on our darkest fears. Yes, they are predators. Yes, they kill other creatures and are capable of killing human beings. But they are animals following their natural instincts and participating in the circle of life. This is an example of how language can be used to pre-dispose the listener to certain messaging and it’s a good way to talk about how prejudice and bias work and can be included in messaging. It’s also a safe and formative moment to teach youth how to analyze and break that messaging down.

Calling sharks monsters is just one example of how media can and does use language to send coded and dangerous messages to viewers. A more current and more nefarious example of this is happening right now in the news when the President of the United States tells people of color to “go back to where they came from” or refers to certain neighborhoods as infested. In both cases dangerous stereotypes, tropes and language are used to cause harm. I am in no way here comparing the two scenarios, just demonstrating how we can provide examples of how we can talk about these subjects with our youth and help them begin to develop the skills necessary to be discerning media consumers so that they understand how language can and is being used. After helping our youth understand how calling sharks monsters is harmful, you can then help them take the next step to understand how the same types of tactics are used against our fellow human beings and help them make those language connections. Having these conversations with our youth is important. I would argue that it is one of the most important conversations we should be having with our youth as we see what is happening right now to people of color and how they are being talked about in our media and by people with tremendous power and the negative impact it is having on their lives. As a white woman raising white children, it’s a conversation I’m having as often as possible with my children.

Delivery Matters: Beware of Shark Week Shows that Sensationalize Shark Attacks, a discussion of bias and presentation

As I mentioned above, not all Shark Week shows are created equal. Some of the shows clearly have a scientific point of view that emphasizes facts, respect for their subject and emphasize conservation. Other shows, however, employ tabloid news tactics designed to tap into our worst fears. They sensationalize shark attacks with dramatic re-enactments, use music to create a mood, and play on our emotional reactions. These shows are sensationalist and can, in my opinion, be harmful.

Right now we are in the midst of a war on journalism and a lot of people don’t know who to trust. Delivery matters and we can use these examples to help discuss some of the tactics used by tabloid journalism and help our youth distinguish them from more reliable news sources. See resources such as Common Sense Media and Medium for more information on teaching youth information media skills. Again, we’re using a more safe and familiar starting point to help open the door and then applying these lessons to the broader media in general.

Facts Matter: Look to See Who is Delivering the Message and What Facts or Credentials They Have to Back That Message Up, a discussion on information authority

This Shark Week kicked off with an episode called Shark Trip: Eat Pray Chum. This show five celebrities presented as kind of bumbling idiots who went around and did a variety of shark related things. On occasion they talked to an expert, but the hosts of the show weren’t experts themselves. I’ll be honest, it was one of my least favorite Shark Week offerings ever.

It’s not the first time that Shark Week has employed celebrities to try and raise ratings. In a previous year, Olypmic swimmer Michael Phelps swam against sharks and this show used someone we know to help deliver information about things like the swimming speed of sharks and how it compares to humans in the water. The information was delivered and hosted by experts in the field and was interesting, entertaining and authoritative. That’s right, we can use Shark Week shows to talk about things like information authority and how to analyze information presented to us to determine whether or not it’s a fact or opinion. Helping youth understand things like bias and authority are essential information literacy skills.

Six Questions That Will Tell You What Media to Trust

If your library is anything like mine, you’re probably putting up Shark Week book displays and even hosting Shark Week related programs. It’s a great opportunity for tie in with a built in audience. I’ve even shared some of my programming before here on TLT. But it’s also a great opportunity to help our youth brush up on their information literacy skills by tying those discussions into something they are already watching and enjoying. You can do this formally, but you can also do this informally as you just talk to the youth in your life about the Shark Week things they are watching. Whenever you can, cease on opportunities to help the youth in your life develop more refined information literacy skills.

TPiB: It’s Shark Week!

Shark Week is my favorite weeks of the year. I’m a little bit obsessed with sharks. Not in a I would want to see one up close in personal in real life way, just in a they are totally cool like dinosaurs, aliens and robots way. I dive into Shark Week every year. See what I did there, cheesy pun totally intended. And I  can not wait for Sharknado 4. I have Jaws saved on my DVR and I watch it regularly. I am all about Shark Week!

So I was totally excited to learn that YA author Martha Brockenbrough – she’s more than a YA author, but that’s how I know her – was writing a Shark Week companion book for the Discovery Channel. (Side note: If you haven’t read THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH yet you should totally fix that.)


“They do have an enemy, and it is us.” – page 26

To be honest, I loved this book. It has great colored pictures of sharks, which is what I need in a shark book. It also has many interesting (and colorful) fact pages, like a section on Shark Myths: Busted and Weirdest Shark Names (Lollipop Catshark is my favorite). So even though I referenced Jaws earlier, you should know that Jaws did a lot of harm to sharks. They have even had some Shark Week specials that covered this topic, and Brockenbrough has a brief section in her book about this. This is part of a section on inaccurate movie portrayals and sharks in stories. And yes, Sharknado is mentioned. And as we are in the midst of the 13th month of the hottest temperatures on record, I found the section on what climate change means for sharks interesting.

I’ve also been thinking of way we can have fun with Shark Week in our Teen MakerSpace.

Shark Buttons!

As you may have heard me say, fingerprint buttons have proven very popular for us here at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. So I wanted to see if I could make a shark one.


And after I wrote Jaws on this button, I thought, “I wonder if I could recreate the Jaws poster – which is awesome – into a button!”


I think I did a fairly decent job, though to be honest it took me several tries.

There are some other great books that you can add to Shark Week to do a display.


More Shark Week Activities

And from a previous post, here are some other activities you can do. Yes, I literally copied and pasted this from a previous post. But I thought it would be helpful to have all the shark week ideas in one place. You’re welcome.

Shark Jawbone Paracord Bracelet

This is not actually made with shark jawbones, in case that needs to be said. But here you can make a paracord bracelet, which is cool, that has shark in the name.

Fish Prints

Gyotaku is the Japenese art of fish printing. Sharks eat fish, plus these are cool, so I think they work. The Mr. was an art major at college and I have been to an event where they did this and it was fun. They used real fish, but you can buy kits that use plastic fish which you may want to purchase if you have an aversion to leaking fish guts, which some people do. You basically need something to print on, say a blank t-shirt. You need the fish, real or not, and you need printing ink – the ink used in printmaking, though I guess you could use paint if you would like – paint rollers, pans to pour the ink into, tablecloths, etc. You ink, or paint the fish, and slap it down on your t-shirt to transfer it. Then you get a glorious fish print. Click on the Fish Prints heading above for better directions.

Under Sea Aquariums

There are a lot of ways you can create some type of an undersea aquariums. If you have a blank wall to decorate, you could have your tweens and teens create one here AND decorate your library, it’s what we call win/win. You could use simple things like butcher paper, craft paper, pipe cleaners, beads, etc. Have them do this in your children’s area, put out a display of both fish AND back to school books and put together some punny saying about going back to SCHOOL. Because, you know, fish groups are called a school of fish.

Or you do an upcycle craft using baby food jars or empty water bottles to make little aquarium. You can buy plastic sharks in bulk to make this happen. Instructions can be found here: http://blog.chickabug.com/2012/03/how-to-make-under-the-sea-snow-globe-aquariums.html.

Shark Origami

I think the title kind of says it all. Click the link for instructions.

Crayon Resist Whale Shark

I’ve always liked crayon resist painting. And, there’s science involved! I admit this is definitely for say the Tween set more so than your teens, but if you have stations and an awesome shark movie playing in the background – may I suggest Jaws? It’s covered under Movie Licensing USA – they may enjoy it.

Clothespin Shark

Yes, again, this one seems youngish. It was very hard to find older shark themed craft ideas. BUT, it’s back to school time and smack some magnets onto these bad boys and you could make a cool Sharknado themed locker. Don’t forget to add some blood!

Shark themed party outline at SheKnows

40 plus Shark Week activities at A Day in Our Shows

This site has 40 Shark Week crafts including making a cool shark themed watermelon, papercrafts and more.

And here is a cool shark themed manicure.

And here is a YouTube tutorial on how to build a Lego Shark

Basically, my thoughts are this:

  • Do a book display
  • Have Jaws playing in the background
  • Have food – it can be something simple like gummy fish/sharks or something elaborate like the watermelon shark
  • Have a few craft stations set up
  • Get out your smart phone and make Vine video of tweens & teens trying to do the dun dun, dun dun, dun dun dun dun theme music from Jaws. Or reciting some of its most famous lines: “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
  • If you really want to get fancy, set up a photo booth station with shark fins and other fun beach items