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USING FICTION TO PROMOTE DISCUSSIONS OF INFORMATION LITERACY, a guest post by Sarah Darer Littman

“Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late”

Political Lying by Johnathan Swift (1710)

A functioning democracy is sustained by healthy, constructive debate about both the issues facing our nation and what policies we should implement to deal with them. However, it’s near impossible to engage in constructive debate if we can’t agree on a common set of facts. That’s why the results of a 2019 study from Stanford History Education Group, Students’ Civic Online Reasoning: A National Portrait were so disturbing.

Researchers gave a six-exercise assessment to national sample matching the demographic profile of high school students in the United States, in order to gauge students’ ability to evaluate digital sources on the open internet.

What they found has grave implications for the future:

  • Fifty-two percent of students believed a grainy video claiming to show ballot stuffing in the 2016 Democratic primaries (the video was actually shot in Russia) constituted “strong evidence” of voter fraud in the U.S. Among more than 3,000 responses, only three students tracked down the source of the video, even though a quick search turns up a variety of articles exposing the ruse. 
  • Two-thirds of students couldn’t tell the difference between news stories and ads (set off by the words “Sponsored Content”) on Slate’s homepage.
  • Ninety-six percent of students did not consider why ties between a climate change website and the fossil fuel industry might lessen that website’s credibility. Instead of investigating who was behind the site, students focused on superficial markers of credibility: the site’s aesthetics, its top-level domain, or how it portrayed itself on the About page.

The inspiration for my novel Deepfake (Scholastic Press, 2020) came as a result of two careers I had on my journey to becoming a YA novelist:  a technology analyst and a journalist. From being an analyst, I learned to look at new technology with a critical eye. As a journalist I tried to uncover and write about the truth, in order to hold elected officials accountable. Accountability is another important foundation of democracy. If we don’t see accountability throughout our justice and political system, we start to lose confidence in our democratic institutions.

When I started reading about deepfakes several years ago, I started to wonder and worry: What happens when advances in technology make it increasingly difficult to know what is true and what isn’t?

In the novel, someone creates a deepfake that purports to show Dara claiming that her boyfriend Will cheated on the SAT, which impacts not only their relationship, but could cause Will’s admission to an elite college to be rescinded.

The characters are forced to use research, reasoning, and analysis —skills our students need to be successful in the 21st Century workplace, and which I see lacking in far too many young people on the college level—in order to solve the mystery of who created the deepfake and why. A teaching guide with discussion questions and activities is available here.

Fiction allows readers to experience the emotional effects of technology and social media along with the characters. It helps them connect things they might have heard about on the news or seen posted online with the how it might impact their lives.

What I wasn’t trying to do with Deepfake is “teach kids a lesson,” a mistake often made by newbie kidlit writers. I know I don’t have all the answers. I’m only human, and I’m as fallible as the next person.

What I do hope to achieve with my storytelling is to encourage young people to think critically about different questions.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash   

Why is this so important? Because it’s their present and their future that’s being shaped by technology platforms and the misinformation that’s spreading on them even more rapidly than the Covid-19 virus traveled across the globe.  

A recent example involves misinformation regarding the Covid-19 vaccines. A study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit NGO that seeks to disrupt the architecture of online hate and misinformation, analyze a sample of anti-vaccine content that was shared or posted on Facebook and Twitter a total of 812,000 times between 1 February and 16 March 2021. Researchers found that 65% percent of anti-vaccine content was attributable to merely twelve accounts, which the center christened “the Disinformation Dozen.”

Once we’ve encouraged kids to think about the questions, our job as educators isn’t to tell them the answers, but rather to empower them to search out the solutions themselves.

That’s why I was so excited that Cindy L. Otis’s excellent non-fiction book True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News came out a few months before Deepfake. Cindy’s book should be in every middle and high school classroom library. This might sound like hyperbole, but it’s not, I assure you.

Cindy spends several chapters discussing the history of fake news, and acknowledges that her former employer, like most intelligence agencies, has employed it for influence campaigns. The best part of her book is that it provides practical solutions that young people can employ right away, enabling them to become part of the solution to our fake news infodemic, rather than part of the problem.

Educators, students, and the general public alike can benefit from the excellent resources provided by The News Literacy Project, a non-partisan national education non-profit dedicated to information literacy. I’m a big fan of their newsletter, The Sift, which provides up to the minute examples of misinformation to share with students.

It’s critical that we get young people thinking about these questions and help them learn the tools they can use to spot and evaluate fake news. As Peter Adams, the senior vice president of education at NewsLiteracyProject said in an interview with CT Public Radio: “If they can’t differentiate between something that’s true and something that’s false, they can’t make good decisions for their lives, for their families, for their futures and for the country.”

Meet the author

Sarah Darer Littman is a critically-acclaimed author of middle-grade and young adult novels. As well as writing novels, Sarah is an instructor in the MFA program at Western Connecticut State University and leads the Children’s and YA section at the Yale Writers’ Workshop.


Socials:

website: sarahdarerlittman.com

Twitter and Instagram @sarahdarerlitt

About Deepfake by Sarah Darer Littman

What happens when anyone can make a video of you saying anything?Dara Simons and Will Halpern have everything they’ve ever wanted. They are the rulers of Greenpoint High’s geekdom, overachieving in every way, and it’s an intense competition to see who will be valedictorian. One the entire school is invested in. That is, until Rumor Has It, the anonymous gossip site, posts a video of Dara accusing Will of paying someone to take the SAT for him.

When the video goes viral, suddenly Will’s being investigated, and everyone’s wondering how he pulled off cheating on the SAT. But Dara swears that she didn’t say any of those things, which seems a little hard to believe since it’s her in the video.

Did Will cheat? Is it Dara saying he did? Who’s lying, and who’s telling the truth? The answer is more shocking than anyone realizes…

ISBN-13: 9781338177633
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date: 10/06/2020
Age Range: 12 Years

News Literacy: Not Just Another Education Buzzword, a guest post by Jamie Gregory

Remember that assignment in junior high to watch the nightly news and keep a journal of what you watched? That was pretty simple for me; all I had to do was turn on CNN and get my notebook.

But that was the 90s. Now as an educator, I wonder if my teachers ever encountered any student pushback about “fake news” or had trouble with students using less-than-credible news sources.

Currently, we have movements across our country to create media literacy legislation mandating instruction. But beware: don’t allow news literacy (a subset of information and media literacy) to become merely a buzzword in education. It indicates our young people’s need to learn how to navigate the rapidly-evolving information landscape. And within that, yes, #FactsMatter.

What’s at stake? Consider real-life consequences of mis/disinformation:

  • The Pizzagate conspiracy theory caused an armed man to open fire inside the Comet Pizza restaurant. Thankfully no one was injured.
  • How about determining whether or not an event actually happened? Alex Jones used his InfoWars platform to claim the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax and has lost in court. But imagine the emotional impact of his “theories” on a family who has lost a child to murder.
  • A 4 year-old died of the flu after the mother sought medical advice from an anti-vaccination group on Facebook
  • In the fall of 2020, wildfires ravaged areas of Oregon. Rumors and misinformation caused funds and efforts to be diverted from the actual cause. The FBI and other local officials released statements debunking the false rumors (and utilized social media).

Teachers often feel like they don’t have time to incorporate information, media, and news literacy, mostly due to testing and the need to cover content. Others may feel news literacy is too political or polarizing. However, if teachers do collaborate with school librarians on these skills, news literacy education cannot fall into the traps of “drill and kill” instruction, or library “drive-by” instruction (e.g. practice involving only pre-selected websites; visiting the library one time a year for brief instruction). It won’t work.

How to avoid those pitfalls? Embed and integrate news literacy into what you’re already doing. Design activities requiring students to engage in critical thinking using real-world examples. Take the time to find out your students’ current habits. Meet them where they’re at. For example, they aren’t going to drop Google and solely use databases. They aren’t going to forego news apps and YouTube news channels to start watching news on television or purchase the print edition like “the old days.” And that’s okay. That’s the evolving information landscape.

Below are some ideas I’ve implemented in some form over the past several years. And like any librarian, I don’t think I came up with a single one of these on my own! Be sure that, as you plan programming, you plan for your own professional development. Librarians must keep their own skills up-to-date as well as frequently and honestly reflect on their own habits and biases.

  • Design activities for students to discover the differences among news aggregators, news media outlets, and user-generated content.
    • Show Google or Apple News, the BBC website, and a social media platform. Can students tell you that news aggregators do not do original reporting? Why does that matter?
    • Here’s an example of user-generated content. Can students identify it as such and take steps to debunk it?

  • Similarly, have students contrast news formats from a single news outlet.
    • Idea from News Literacy: The Keys to Combating Fake News by Michelle Luhtala and Jacquelyn Whiting – create stations for students to analyze the format of the New York Times (or other publication) print edition, website, app, YouTube channel, and social media accounts on Facebook/Twitter.
  • According to the most recent report in October 2020 released by the Stanford History Education Group, two-thirds of students could not tell the difference between news stories and ads. Ninety-six percent of students could not analyze how ties to the fossil fuel industry might influence the credibility of a climate change website. Create a Google Form to administer the latest SHEG assessment to students/patrons. Analyze results and share. Then share national results.

  • Design an event for a Q&A panel with local journalists. Help students learn how professional journalists follow a code of ethics and why local journalism is vital to communities.
  • Replicate this Common Sense Media teen news consumption survey. I did that with my journalism newspaper class, and the students compared their class answers to the results of the national survey, which I condensed into this infographic.
  • Quick quiz or trivia questions – show headlines from a variety of credible and satirical news outlets. Can students distinguish what’s credible and what’s satire?
  • A great beginning activity is to use the Infozones infographic from the News Literacy Project. Either give students/patrons an example of each information type to sort on their own according to the infographic, or have them find their own examples of each.

  • Memes are not news! Show examples of people sharing memes purporting to be news and how to use lateral reading to debunk them. Have students/patrons make their own examples of social media posts which accurately reflect a news article to model digital citizenship.
  • I love interactive bulletin boards! Create a lift-the-flap display titled “Is It Trustworthy?” and post an image or headline with the debunked information under a flap.
  • Host digital scavenger hunts for examples of types of mis/disinformation so we go beyond using the blanket term “fake news.”
    • There are many infographics available for showing students the nuanced categories of mis/disinformation.

  • My students enjoyed a virtual visit with Greta Pittenger, fact-checker with NPR. She did this activity with my students: hand out a straight news article. Ask students/patrons to highlight anything they think would need to be fact-checked. Then demonstrate reliable resources they could use for fact-checking (lateral reading). You can connect with local journalists through the News Literacy Project’s virtual platform, Checkology.
  • My amazing colleague, school librarian Tamara Cox (@coxtl), recently shared a clickbait lesson she completed with students. This is a great way to incorporate fiction into your misinformation discussions!
  • I’m not the first person to caution educators about using media bias charts. They may oversimplify and even misrepresent some credible news media outlets. For example, the AllSides chart states it only evaluates the perspectives of online content, not accuracy or credibility! It can be helpful for students to find opinion pieces from a variety of outlets, and these charts may give a false sense of authority. Try having students adopt a critical stance and develop some critical habits no matter which news media outlet they choose to interact with.

Again, the most important factor in news literacy education is your own professional development. Sign up for free newsletters from the News Literacy Project, First Draft, and the Center for News Literacy. Be willing to learn about and adapt your own news literacy habits in order to create meaningful learning experiences for students.

Meet the author

Jamie is the Upper School librarian and journalism newspaper teacher at Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville, SC. She is a National Board Certified teacher in Library Media, finishing her 8th year as a high school librarian. She spent her first 8 years in public education as a high school English and French teacher, journalism teacher, yearbook and newspaper adviser, and AP English Language and Composition teacher before earning her MLIS degree from USC in 2012. She served as the 2019-2020 chair of the SC Book Awards programs, a judge for the 2021 YALSA Morris Award, and is currently in her 3rd year of blogging for ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom blog. She has presented sessions on high school literacy, guided inquiry-based learning, and news literacy at the South Carolina Association of School Librarians’ annual conferences. She has also published articles in School Library Monthly, VOYA, Teacher Librarian, and School Library Connection. Follow her on Twitter @gregorjm.

The Kids Might Be Alright: Bringing Media Literacy to the Classroom, a guest post by Olivia Tompkins

I am a relatively recent MLIS grad and early on in my program, I took a “pilot” class on Information Literacy in Libraries and fell in love with it—as much as one can fall in love with a field born out of an infuriating element of society. The class both taught information literacy to us as students, and taught us how to teach our library patrons and/or students.

Fast forward to my graduation capstone project: “piloting” an information literacy class for the seventh graders in the school in work, related to their big year-end project. I built a lesson around identifying misinformation online and used a viral, blatantly incorrect TikTok about—ironically—COVID-19 (the original video has been removed, but is still visible through this “duet” video). This is early March 2020.  

Now, pause: the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, the world shuts down, and as my school goes remote, the 7th grade project is cancelled—as are my info lit lessons.  

Fast forward again: I am granted time and resources to build, you guessed it, a “pilot” information literacy curriculum for my school.

Everything about teaching information literacy seems to be in pilot mode, despite us being well beyond the time where a pilot lesson would do the trick.

Students today know what they’re doing online. They may be prone to creating dance TikToks in the library, but they also know how to create thoughtful, intelligent content to share that doesn’t involve dances I would not dare to attempt.

That said, they are not star students when it comes to fact-checking and verifying what they read online. Insert defeated sigh here.

There is hope, though!

As a librarian-educator who wants to teach crucial information literacy skills to my students, it is hard to know where to start. Not only are there an overwhelming number of skills for them to learn, there are an overwhelming number of books, lesson examples, and organizations on the topic for me to sift through. The picture below is only a fraction of resources I sifted through to find best practices.

(Andy the cat would like to brush up on his media literacy skills, too!)

I have to figure out where to start and I need to consider the complexity of the matter. What I began to teach seventh graders in early 2020 (identifying incorrect information and the basics of lateral reading) was a lot to ask of them. But when I was asked to visit an advanced journalism class of 10th-12th graders, I needed to include those basics and then some. 

The scaffolding of this kind of curriculum is something I am still figuring out and is something I assume will involve a lot of trial and error.

It’s at this point that I finally understood why all of this is in “pilot” mode—the only way to know what works is to jump in the deep end and see what works, or doesn’t work (not to mix my metaphors, but here we are).  

So what does work?

With a class of older students, I knew we could tackle a more nuanced information literacy skill: identifying and understanding bias in the media.

My visit was scheduled for right after our return from spring break, so the teacher and I assigned a brief lateral reading exercise before their time off—without calling it lateral reading. Each student picked a current event they found interesting and found three distinct articles about it.

With the assignment, they were given thought-starter questions to reflect on their three sources: (1) Are any facts reported differently between outlets? (2) Are you able to find any obvious political affiliations or opinions within the article? (3) Did your opinion on or reaction to the topic change between the different coverage you read? (4) Does any article feel more “correct” than the others?

I tried to keep the word “bias” out of the questions so they could get a sense of these differences without ascribing them to a specific definition. Then the night before class, their homework was to find one more article on their topic published during their spring break and consider the same questions.

In a class of 15 students, the students consulted 23 distinct outlets with repeated use of NYT, Fox, BBC, CBS, and CNN.

We were virtual on this particular day, I started class with breakout room discussions for the students to share what they read and any observations they had. I sat in on one of the groups and they had a lively conversation without any prompting. We came back as a group to do a quick share of any key observations and then I began my presentation.

I retroactively introduced the assignment as lateral reading and discussed that it’s a great way to verify information itself, but also is an early step to identifying bias. The students all had a general understanding of what bias means, though my volunteer to give a definition looked at it more as an opinion or preference.

This is where I leveraged one of the incredibly well-done “Who, Me? Biased?”videos from The New York Times to introduce implicit bias: “Peanut Butter, Jelly and Racism.” I paired implicit bias with an overview of confirmation bias and filter bubbles, like how algorithms show you more of the fun content you like, and then how that applies to the news (ie. radicalized groups, qanon, etc.).

And as I told my students, the reality that we all have bias is the biggest hurdle to overcome when you’re trying to pay attention to the insidious kind.

Screenshot from Peanut Butter, Jelly, and Racism

The next set of breakout conversations was my big “Yeah, okay, these kids are going to be alright,” moment. Here I was being a huge downer and discussing the ways that confirmation bias can go really wrong, and how the algorithms can make it even worse, and one of my students brought up something they noticed during their spring break. While we were at home, there was the terrible attack against Asian American women in Georgia and with this news came a lot of resources to help those affected and that do great work for Asian American community as well—as long as you knew where to look for it.

To paraphrase my student, they said, “One thing I noticed was that once a few people I followed posted those good resources, more and more of that information came up in my newsfeed, either from other people I followed, or from suggested posts. So that’s a positive way that the algorithm works, right?”

And, yes, they absolutely were right.

I really lucked out with this class; they were engaged, had great conversations about how media can influence social justice, and seemed to take away from the lesson what I had hoped for: an elevated awareness of bias in their media.

There is a long way to go with how we teach information literacy skills to teens and younger students, but this generation has shown that they are ready and willing to be civic-minded, and they aren’t afraid to jump right in. They’ll be alright, we just need to guide them.


Meet the author

Olivia Tompkins (she/her) is a middle & high school librarian at a K-12 independent school in Connecticut, who switched to the LIS field after realizing the corporate life was not for her. She loves to read YA fiction, memoirs, historical fiction, or any book with strong, badass female protagonists. When not building LibGuides or teaching media literacy, Olivia is often trying to read and write while her cats demand lap space, or reorganizing the tower of books that she cannot fit on her bookshelves. You can find her trying to keep up with her TBR list on Instagram at @livinthestacks.

#FactsMatter: Great Graphic Nonfiction for Students Who Love Information and Real World Stories, by Librarian Alison

Today, as part of our #FactsMatter spotlight on nonfiction, we have a guest post by a librarian in New York City named Alison. She is here today to talk with us about nonfiction presented in graphic novel format.

In elementary school libraries, the nonfiction section is just as popular, if not moreso, than the fiction section. Students love learning new information about the world and sharing those new facts with others. When they have time to browse, they’ll happily rush to the nonfiction shelves to grab books about animals, or space, or sports, or whatever topic seems interesting to them at the moment.

As students get older, I’ve noticed, that love for nonfiction isn’t as obvious in the library anymore. While this is purely anecdotal, I’ve observed that middle and high school students are far less likely to rush to the nonfiction section when looking for their next book to read. Is this because their love of facts and information has waned with age? This seems unlikely. Rather, I think it could be the result of a few different factors. First, I think sometimes librarians focus their nonfiction collection development efforts on books that will support their school’s curriculum needs, rather than books students may want to read for fun. While this is absolutely important, it can mean that students associate the nonfiction section with stuff they have to do for school instead of things they want to read about. Second, nonfiction books can be more challenging for students to read. They can have dense text and specialized vocabulary, and just generally seem more intimidating to students.

So, is there a way for our middle and high school students who have gravitated away from the nonfiction section to rediscover, or discover for the first time, their love of nonfiction? Definitely! And I think one great way to do that is through graphic nonfiction. While there are lots of great narrative nonfiction books and informational texts being written for tween and teens these days, books in graphic format are an accessible and engaging way for students to (re)discover nonfiction. Graphic nonfiction, with its reliance on pictures telling the story as much, if not more, than words, presents facts and information in a way that can be easier for students to grasp, especially visual learners, English language learners, and others who might struggle with more traditional formats of nonfiction.

Many students are already big fans of graphic novels; they love reading stories told in both words and pictures, and so this format is familiar to and beloved by many tweens and teens. These graphic novel lovers may be more interested in and willing to try a nonfiction book if it’s in a format they already enjoy, so this is another way to guide students back to the nonfiction section. Students who love graphic novels set in space, for example, may enjoy graphic nonfiction texts about astronauts, while those who enjoy historical fiction might be excited to pick up Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, and students who love realistic fiction could really get into many of the graphic memoirs available.

While graphic texts are an excellent way for tweens and teens to access nonfiction for pleasure reading, they are also a useful teaching tool. Graphic nonfiction not only uses visual storytelling and engaging writing to help students understand complex topics and take in information, but this medium can also be a good way to introduce difficult ideas or topics. Graphic nonfiction texts can help ease students into discussions and lessons on particularly challenging or distressing topics. Additionally, the use of graphic nonfiction in the classroom may serve as encouragement for students to pursue their personal interests in nonfiction as well.

So, where should you begin when it comes to graphic nonfiction? Well, I’ve created a list of some great graphic nonfiction texts full of interesting and engaging content, all of which would make great additions to many middle or high school library collections. (Note: I have chosen not to include some more well known graphic nonfiction, like Persepolis and the March Trilogy, because they are already quite popular, but please know that despite their absence from this list, they are great choices too!) So, here are some wonderful graphic nonfiction texts (all book descriptions are from the publishers):

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha (Gr. 7 & Up)-For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.

So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated.

Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends in Seoul and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily, and worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother.

Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.

This nonfiction graphic novel with four starred reviews is an excellent choice for teens and also accelerated tween readers, both for independent reading and units on immigration, memoirs, and the search for identity.

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (Gr. 5 & Up)-The U.S. may have put the first man on the moon, but it was the Soviet space program that made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space. It took years to catch up, but soon NASA’s first female astronauts were racing past milestones of their own. The trail-blazing women of Group 9, NASA’s first mixed gender class, had the challenging task of convincing the powers that be that a woman’s place is in space, but they discovered that NASA had plenty to learn about how to make space travel possible for everyone.

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s Journey to Justice by Debbie Levy and Whitney Gardner (Gr. 6 & Up)-Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a modern feminist icon—a leader in the fight for equal treatment of girls and women in society and the workplace. She blazed trails to the peaks of the male-centric worlds of education and law, where women had rarely risen before.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often said that true and lasting change in society and law is accomplished slowly, one step at a time. This is how she has evolved, too. Step by step, the shy little girl became a child who questioned unfairness, who became a student who persisted despite obstacles, who became an advocate who resisted injustice, who became a judge who revered the rule of law, who became…RBG.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu (Gr. 8 & Up)-Throughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit.

With her characteristic wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.

Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Jessica Dee Humphreys, Michel Chikwanine, and Claudia Davila (Gr. 5 & Up)-Michel Chikwanine was five years old when he was abducted from his school-yard soccer game in the Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to become a soldier for a brutal rebel militia. Against the odds, Michel managed to escape and find his way back to his family, but he was never the same again. After immigrating to Canada, Michel was encouraged by a teacher to share what happened to him in order to raise awareness about child soldiers around the world, and this book is part of that effort.

Told in the first person and presented in a graphic novel format, the gripping story of Michel’s experience is moving and unsettling. But the humanity he exhibits in the telling, along with Claudia Dávila’s illustrations, which evoke rather than depict the violent elements of the story, makes the book accessible for this age group and, ultimately, reassuring and hopeful. The back matter contains further information, as well as suggestions for ways children can help. This is a perfect resource for engaging youngsters in social studies lessons on global awareness and social justice issues, and would easily spark classroom discussions about conflict, children’s rights and even bullying. Michel’s actions took enormous courage, but he makes clear that he was and still is an ordinary person, no different from his readers. He believes everyone can do something to make the world a better place, and so he shares what his father told him: “If you ever think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.”

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang (Gr. 8 & Up)-Gene understands stories—comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins.

But Gene doesn’t get sports. As a kid, his friends called him “Stick” and every basketball game he played ended in pain. He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it’s all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. Each victory brings them closer to their ultimate goal: the California State Championships.

Once Gene gets to know these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page. He knows he has to follow this epic to its end. What he doesn’t know yet is that this season is not only going to change the Dragons’s lives, but his own life as well.

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix (Gr. 7 & Up)-Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party is gaining strength and becoming more menacing every day. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor upset by the complacency of the German church toward the suffering around it, forms a breakaway church to speak out against the established political and religious authorities. When the Nazis outlaw the church, he escapes as a fugitive. Struggling to reconcile his faith and the teachings of the Bible with the Nazi Party’s evil agenda, Bonhoeffer decides that Hitler must be stopped by any means possible!

In his signature style of interwoven handwritten text and art, John Hendrix tells the true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to help free the German people from oppression during World War II.

The History of the World in Comics by Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu and Adrienne Barman (Gr. 5 & Up)-A paleontologist and a storyteller take two children through the birth of our planet, the beginning of microbes, and through the heydays of protozoans, dinosaurs, and early mammals with unfailing enthusiasm.

The art accurately portrays animal species and prehistoric landscapes, includes maps and infographics, but also adds humorous touches: a google-eyed prehistoric fish looking startled to be walking on land and the children popping out of a tree top to surprise a Brachiosaurus.

The combined expertise of author Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu, a science writer and biologist, and illustrator Adriene Barman, the creator behind Creaturepedia and Plantopedia, makes for a science read you can trust.

Fans of Maris Wicks’s Human Body Theater and Nathan Hale will be pleased.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña (Gr. 7 & Up)-Graciela Iturbide was born in Mexico City in 1942, the oldest of 13 children. When tragedy struck Iturbide as a young mother, she turned to photography for solace and understanding. From then on Iturbide embarked on a photographic journey that has taken her throughout her native Mexico, from the Sonora Desert to Juchitán to Frida Kahlo’s bathroom, to the United States, India, and beyond. Photographic is a symbolic, poetic, and deeply personal graphic biography of this iconic photographer. Iturbide’s journey will excite readers of all ages as well as budding photographers, who will be inspired by her resolve, talent, and curiosity.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (Gr. 6 & Up)-Jim Ottaviani returns with an action-packed account of the three greatest primatologists of the last century: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. These three ground-breaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology—and to our own understanding of ourselves.

Tackling Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas in turn, and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century. Thanks to the charming and inviting illustrations by Maris Wicks, this is a nonfiction graphic novel with broad appeal.

A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities by Mady G and J.R. Zuckerberg (Gr. 9 & Up)-In this quick and easy guide to queer and trans identities, cartoonists Mady G and JR Zuckerberg guide you through the basics of the LGBT+ world! Covering essential topics like sexuality, gender identity, coming out, and navigating relationships, this guide explains the spectrum of human experience through informative comics, interviews, worksheets, and imaginative examples. A great starting point for anyone curious about queer and trans life, and helpful for those already on their own journeys!

(Note: There are several more books in the ‘Quick & Easy Guide’ series that would also be great additions to graphic nonfiction collections: A Quick & Easy Guide to Asexuality, A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, A Quick & Easy Guide to Consent, and A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex & Disability)

Smash! Exploring the Mysteries of the Universe with the Large Hadron Collider by Sara Latta and Jeff Weigel (Gr. 7 & Up)-What is the universe made of? At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, scientists have searched for answers to this question using the largest machine in the world: the Large Hadron Collider. It speeds up tiny particles, then smashes them together—and the collision gives researchers a look at the building blocks of the universe.

Nick and Sophie, two cousins, are about to visit CERN for a tour of the mysteries of the cosmos. Sophie’s a physics wiz. Nick, not so much. But by the time they’re through, Nick and Sophie will both feel the power of hidden particles, fundamental forces, dark matter, and more. It’s all a blast in this mind-blowing graphic novel!

Strange Fruit Volume 1: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill (Gr. 8 & Up)-Strange Fruit Volume I is a collection of stories from early African American history that represent the oddity of success in the face of great adversity. Each of the nine illustrated chapters chronicles an uncelebrated African American hero or event. From the adventures of lawman Bass Reeves, to Henry “Box” Brown’s daring escape from slavery.

The Stuff of Life : A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA by Mark Schultz, Zander Cannon, and Kevin Cannon (Gr. 10 & Up)-Let’s face it: From adenines to zygotes, from cytokinesis to parthenogenesis, even the basics of genetics can sound utterly alien. So who better than an alien to explain it all? Enter Bloort 183, a scientist from an asexual alien race threatened by disease, who’s been charged with researching the fundamentals of human DNA and evolution and laying it all out in clear, simple language so that even his slow-to-grasp-the-point leader can get it. In the hands of the award-winning writer Mark Schultz, Bloort’s predicament becomes the means of giving even the most science-phobic reader a complete introduction to the history and science of genetics that’s as easy to understand as it is entertaining to read.

Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown (Gr. 9 & Up)-It is, perhaps, the perfect video game. Simple yet addictive, Tetris delivers an irresistible, unending puzzle that has players hooked. Play it long enough and you’ll see those brightly colored geometric shapes everywhere. You’ll see them in your dreams.

Alexey Pajitnov had big ideas about games. In 1984, he created Tetris in his spare time while developing software for the Soviet government. Once Tetris emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, it was an instant hit. Nintendo, Atari, Sega—game developers big and small all wanted Tetris. A bidding war was sparked, followed by clandestine trips to Moscow, backroom deals, innumerable miscommunications, and outright theft.

In this graphic novel,New York Times–bestselling author Box Brown untangles this complex history and delves deep into the role games play in art, culture, and commerce. For the first time and in unparalleled detail, Tetris: The Games People Play tells the true story of the world’s most popular video game.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker (Gr. 7 & Up)-George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.

They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

What is American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do? To answer these questions, George Takei joins co-writers Justin Eisinger & Steven Scott and artist Harmony Becker for the journey of a lifetime.

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (Gr. 8 & Up)-In the tradition of two-time Sibert honor winner Don Brown’s critically acclaimed, full-color nonfiction graphic novels The Great American Dust Bowl and Drowned City, The Unwanted is an important, timely, and eye-opening exploration of the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, exposing the harsh realities of living in, and trying to escape, a war zone.

Starting in 2011, refugees flood out of war-torn Syria in Exodus-like proportions. The surprising flood of victims overwhelms neighboring countries, and chaos follows. Resentment in host nations heightens as disruption and the cost of aid grows. By 2017, many want to turn their backs on the victims. The refugees are the unwanted.

Don Brown depicts moments of both heartbreaking horror and hope in the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis. Shining a light on the stories of the survivors, The Unwanted is a testament to the courage and resilience of the refugees and a call to action for all those who read.

What Does Consent Really Mean? by Pete Wallis, Thalia Wallis, and Joseph Wilkins (Gr. 8 & Up)-While seemingly straightforward, Tia and Bryony hadn’t considered this subject too seriously until it comes up in conversation with their friends and they realize just how important it is.

Following the sexual assault of a classmate, a group of teenage girls find themselves discussing the term consent, what it actually means for them in their current relationships, and how they act and make decisions with peer influence. Joined by their male friends who offer another perspective, this rich graphic novel uncovers the need for more informed conversations with young people around consent and healthy relationships. Accompanying the graphics are sexual health resources for students and teachers, which make this a perfect tool for broaching the subject with teens.

I hope this list has given you some ideas for adding graphic nonfiction to your collection. If you have a favorite graphic nonfiction text that wasn’t included, please share in the comments!

Meet Our Guest Blogger

Alison is the Middle and Upper School Librarian at an independent school in New York City. She has worked in school libraries for 8 years, with students from ages 3-18. She loves reading and learning, and helping students find the perfect book. When she’s not in the library, she enjoys baking, traveling, and spending time with her two cats, Molly and Minerva. You can find more of Alison’s musings about books and libraries on her website msginthelibrary.com, on Twitter @msginthelibrary, or on Instagram @msginthelibrary.

Information Literacy Skills in the Digital Citizenship Classroom: Teaching Lateral Reading, a guest post by Jennifer Hanson

How do you teach information literacy skills in a remote class setting? When the pandemic hit last spring, all of my digital citizenship classes suddenly became asynchronous classes. This gave me the opportunity to redesign how I was going to teach information literacy skills in my 8th grade classes. Without the face-to-face interaction, I knew I needed some solid videos to explain evaluating information. I could either make those videos myself or use something that already existed. Through the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program, I was familiar with the Stanford History Education Group Civic Online Reasoning lessons. I really liked their video from Crash Course with John Green explaining lateral reading.

If you are unfamiliar with lateral reading, the basic concept is to open a new tab or tabs on your device and search for information about a website. Rather than scrolling down a webpage or reading the About Us page, lateral reading provides other sources of information about the website you might be viewing.

For my asynchronous lesson, I put together a Google Form lesson with a series of videos for my students to watch, asking them evaluate a source for its authenticity using lateral reading, then applying their new lateral reading skills to another video. Because the activity included no interaction with a teacher, students struggled at the end to provide evidence for whether or not this video of a snowboarder being chased by a bear was real or fake. I asked them to watch the video, then read laterally to determine if the video was real or fake and provide evidence of their decision. Of the 39 students who completed the assignment, 15 noted their strategy to read laterally and cited Snopes or National Geographic as their evidence the video was fake. The other students tried to analyze the video itself, determining if the bear looked real and if the girl was bothered by the presence of the bear.

I felt like this lesson had some merit, so when we returned to school in the fall, I modified it a bit. The fact that we now had a Zoom-based synchronous class helped me provide a level of guidance and context that the asynchronous format did not accommodate. In order to practice their lateral reading skills more, I added an activity from the Stanford History Education Group lesson “Intro to Lateral Reading.” After analyzing the snowboarder video as a class and practicing lateral reading to provide evidence of whether the video is real or fake, I ask students to complete an activity about the Odyssey Online website. This activity is more challenging than the snowboarder activity as it asks students to evaluate the reliability of a website that has published an article about the minimum wage.

One challenge students faced immediately with the Odyssey activity was the first question of “who is the sponsoring organization?” Sponsor sounds like advertiser, and lots of ads pop up at the top and on the right side of the page. Students were responding that the sponsoring organization was a variety of advertisers like The New York Times and Starbucks instead of the organization Odyssey. If big names like The New York Times and Starbucks advertise on the site, it must be good, right? This gave me the opportunity to help students understand the difference between sponsor (the owner of a website) and advertisers (other entities who buy space/time in a variety of venues without vetting everything their advertisements are attached to). The second time I taught the lesson, I prefaced the activity with that discussion so that students didn’t get off track from that central question.

In December, I attended Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins’ ISTE presentation “Evaluating Bias and Truth in the Fake News Era.” One question LaGarde asked during the session was “how do we teach students to read laterally on mobile devices?” Since then, I have added a discussion on reading laterally when we are on Instagram or Snapchat, emphasizing that lateral reading isn’t just done on a laptop or for websites, but for all media we consume.

Teaching remotely, both in an asynchronous and synchronous environment, pushed me to reevaluate how I was teaching information literacy skills with my students. I think the changes to my instruction have been positive overall and have given students stronger evaluation skills. How have you adapted your instruction this past year? What strategies will you keep?

Meet the author

Jennifer Hanson is the Director of Library Services at Worcester Academy and has over a decade of experience teaching information and technology literacy skills. She is also an Educational Consultant for the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Eastern Region Partner at Waynesburg University and has written for School Library Journal.

Don’t Believe Everything You See: A Discussion of Deepfake by Sarah Littman with Lisa Krok

Having seen some deepfake videos, I was curious to read Deepfake by Sarah Darer Littman. This book is a fictionalized account of how this synthetic media can have drastic consequences.

First, what exactly is a deepfake? The term itself comes from a combination of “deep learning” and “fake”. Deepfakes are AI (artificial intelligence) generated media where someone’s likeness can be swapped with another, or manipulated with the intent or likelihood of being deceptive about the recorded person’s words or actions. A creator of this would first need to train a neural network to understand what the person looks like in different lighting and angles. This can be constructed by using many hours of real video footage to make a realistic deepfake video. This process was invented by Ian Goodfellow, a Ph. D. student in 2014. Popular Mechanics reports that he now works at Apple.

In the novel, seniors Dara and Will are not only competing for valedictorian, but they have also been dating on the sly. When a video posts to the school’s gossip site, Rumor Has It, Will is stunned to see Dara accusing him of paying someone to take the SAT for him. Feeling betrayed and falsely maligned, he breaks up with Dara and is facing an investigation that could rescind his college acceptance. Here’s the catch: Dara knows she did not say those things or share that video. Leave it to this valedictorian candidate to scrutinize the video and surrounding evidence to discover what is really going on. This disturbing tale grips readers, who will be turning pages to find out how, why, and who is responsible for this.

According to a recent report from University College London,“Deepfakes are the most dangerous form of crime through artificial intelligence…This is because while deepfake detectors require training through hundreds of videos and must be victorious in every instance, malicious individuals only have to be successful once”. This leads to the question of the legality of these videos. Clearly, spreading misinformation via this manipulated media is very concerning. Anything pornographic is subject to defamation or copyright suits, but deepfakes with deceitful or controversial statements that were never said currently remain legal.

Tips to spot a deep fake from MIT’s Detect Fakes project:

 (retrieved from https://www.media.mit.edu/projects/detect-fakes/overview/)

“The Detect Fakes experiment offers the opportunity to learn more about DeepFakes and see how well you can discern real from fake. When it comes to AI-manipulated media, there’s no single tell-tale sign of how to spot a fake. Nonetheless, there are several DeepFake artifacts that you can be on the look-out for. 

  1. Pay attention to the face. High-end DeepFake manipulations are almost always facial transformations. 
  2. Pay attention to the cheeks and forehead. Does the skin appear too smooth or too wrinkly? Is the agedness of the skin similar to the agedness of the hair and eyes? DeepFakes are often incongruent on some dimensions.
  3. Pay attention to the eyes and eyebrows. Do shadows appear in places that you would expect? DeepFakes often fail to fully represent the natural physics of a scene. 
  4. Pay attention to the glasses. Is there any glare? Is there too much glare? Does the angle of the glare change when the person moves? Once again, DeepFakes often fail to fully represent the natural physics of lighting.
  5. Pay attention to the facial hair or lack thereof. Does this facial hair look real? DeepFakes might add or remove a mustache, sideburns, or beard. But, DeepFakes often fail to make facial hair transformations fully natural.
  6. Pay attention to facial moles.  Does the mole look real? 
  7. Pay attention to blinking. Does the person blink enough or too much? 
  8. Pay attention to the size and color of the lips. Does the size and color match the rest of the person’s face?

These eight questions are intended to help guide people looking through DeepFakes. High-quality DeepFakes are not easy to discern, but with practice, people can build intuition for identifying what is fake and what is real. You can practice trying to detect DeepFakes at Detect Fakes.”

Creating deepfakes is surprisingly easy with the right app/software, and can be created for fun or learning purposes, rather than used fraudulently. Here are some examples:

Princess Leia Deepfake

Bill Hader Pacino Schwarzenegger Deepfake

Queen Elizabeth Deepfake

Home Alone “Home Stallone” Deepfake

If you would like to try making a fun video of your own, check out these apps and websites:

Best Deepfake Apps and Websites

There is a teaching guide for this book available here: https://sarahdarerlittman.com/teacherreading_guides/deepfake_guide_-copy.pdf

Meet Librarian Lisa Krok

Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the adult and teen services manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in the Cleveland, Ohio area. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians. Lisa’s passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. She recently concluded a term on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee (BFYA 2021), and also served two years on the Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s team. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

News Literacy Week, Because One of the Things 2020 Taught is That Teens Need Better Information Literacy Skills

Yesterday The Hollywood Reporter tweeted out an article with the headline “Get the Poodle Instead of the Prozac”, which got the pushback that an article like this deserves. Depression is a mental health issue and medication it the correct course of action for a large number of people who struggle with it. In addition, pet adoption comes with a lot of responsibility and can be quite costly. This headline was dangerous in a world that continues to stigmatize mental health issues and medicinal treatment for those issues, especially during a deadly global pandemic in which many, including a growing number of youth, are struggling with mental health issues.

This headline is also a great example of something we can teach our youth regarding Information Literacy 101: Use the right source for the topic. I personally go to the Hollywood Reporter daily to see the latest entertainment news headlines and to learn what recent YA book adaptation is being adapted for television or a movie. It’s a great resource for entertainment news, but not a good resource for medical information. For quality information on depression and other mental health issues, you would do best to consult a medical journal and, most importantly, your doctor who is familiar with your specific history. The source of information matters, always.

The News Literacy Project is partnering with The E.W. Scripps Company to launch a national public awareness campaign on the importance of news literacy and the role of the free press in American democracy. The campaign culminates in National News Literacy Week, Jan. 25-29.

Today kicks off News Literacy Week and I believe it is imperative that everyone that works in a library be engaged in advocating for and teaching our students and patrons how to be better consumers of information. Here are some resources to check out and share.

News Lit.org

News Lit is the sponsor of News Literacy Week and they have a quiz you can share to test our knowledge of the news here: https://newslit.org/news-literacy-week/

Understanding What an Infodemic Is

This year I kept seeing the term “infodemic” and it was new to me, so I imagine it is new to a lot of our youth as well: “Infodemic is a portmanteau of “information” and “epidemic” that typically refers to a rapid and far-reaching spread of both accurate and inaccurate information about something, such as a disease. As facts, rumors, and fears mix and disperse, it becomes difficult to learn essential information about an issue.” The Word Health Organization has some good information about this topic here: https://iris.paho.org/bitstream/handle/10665.2/52052/Factsheet-infodemic_eng.pdf?sequence=14

Understanding News Media Bias

There has been and needs to continue to be a discussion about understanding news media bias. The American Press Institute has a brief intro to this topic here: https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/bias-objectivity/understanding-bias/. This is also a good resource because there are a ton of links at the end of this article that talk about Journalism 101. You can also find a discussion of a media bias graphic here and it links to a template that you can have your students fill out: https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/information-bias/

What About Conspiracy Theories?

Of course, this past year there has been a lot of discussion about conspiracy theories, including what they are, how they happen, and how they are spread and affect our current climate. Wired magazine has a discussion about teens, TikTok and conspiracy theories here: https://www.wired.com/story/teens-tiktok-conspiracy-theories/. One of the ways that we can help protect against the proliferation of conspiracy theories is to teach kids critical thinking skills, which is discussed here: https://theconversation.com/to-combat-conspiracy-theories-teach-critical-thinking-and-community-values-147314.

Build an Information Literacy Collection

It would be disingenuous for me or any educator or librarian to suggest that teaching Information Literacy will solve our world’s woes, but it is a tool that we can give our youth that fits in our wheelhouse. One of the things we should do is teach it in the classroom and build solid Information Literacy collections that keep this idea front and center in our communities. Seeing the titles is an important reminder for our patrons that information literacy is an ongoing process that everyone must engage in for themselves, for their community, and for democracy. Some titles you may want to include are:

There are also some great Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction titles that discuss the Internet and social media and how they can affect the lives of teens:

If you have additional titles or resources that you would like to recommend, I would love to hear about it in the comments. This is something that I have personally been talking a lot with my tweens and teens about and I hope that you are as well.

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.