Students have no shortage of information at their fingertips. How can educators and librarians instill in readers the capability to discern fact from fiction, interpret data, and navigate and evaluate the information they receive?
Information literacy encompasses the set of skills that allow readers discover information, process and evaluate it, and use it to inform their decisions. Younger readers might begin developing these skills by being introduced to concepts like bias, hoaxes, and parody, while older readers can empower themselves by understanding exactly how and why misinformation spreads.
We’ve rounded up several books that tackle topics readers have likely seen mentioned in the headlines: the spread of disinformation, conspiracy theories, and fake news. These titles also explore ways that disinformation can be combatted – both by media professionals and by readers themselves.
Science and the Skeptic: Discerning Fact from Fiction by Marc Zimmer
Interest Level: Grade 8 – Grade 12 · Reading Level: Grade 8
The line between entertainment and reality, between fact and fiction, has become blurred. Some of the most crucial issues of our time—climate change, vaccines, and genetically modified organisms—have become prime targets for nefarious disinformation campaigns. Far too many people have become distrustful of real science. Even those who still trust science no longer know what to believe or how to identify the truth. Not only does this result in the devaluation and distrust of real science, but it is also dangerous: people acting based on false information can hurt themselves or those around them.
We must equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills to fight back against all this disinformation. In Science and the Skeptic: Discerning Fact from Fiction, readers will learn how science is done, from the basic scientific method to the vetting process that scientific papers must go through to become published; how and why some people intentionally or unintentionally spread misinformation; and the dangers in believing and spreading false information. You’ll also find twenty easy-to-follow rules for distinguishing fake science from the real deal. Armed with this book, readers will empower themselves with knowledge, learning what information to trust and what to dismiss as deceit.
Praise for Science and the Skeptic:
★“[D]oes a thorough and extremely effective job of explaining the difference between scientific fact and fiction. . . . A very helpful guide for a very timely problem.”—starred, Booklist
“Timely, practical, and all too important.”—Kirkus Reviews
Interest Level: Grade 3 – Grade 5 · Reading Level: Grade 3
This four-book series defines types of fake news and explores how they affect politics and history. Readers will learn how to spot and react to misleading articles. Page Plus QR codes in the books link to additional examples online, where readers can apply their skills.
Fake News: Separating Truth from Fiction by Michael Miller
Interest Level: Grade 6 – Grade 12 · Reading Level: Grade 8
While popularized by President Donald Trump, the term “fake news” actually originated toward the end of the 19th century, in an era of rampant yellow journalism. Since then, it has come to encompass a broad universe of news stories and marketing strategies ranging from outright lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theories to hoaxes, opinion pieces, and satire—all facilitated and manipulated by social media platforms. This title explores journalistic and fact-checking standards, Constitutional protections, and real-world case studies, helping readers identify the mechanics, perpetrators, motives, and psychology of fake news. A final chapter explores methods for assessing and avoiding the spread of fake news.
Notable Award Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, Winner, 2020
Praise for Fake News:
“[D]efines fake news, describes its insidious power, and provides relevant and accessible examples.”—Booklist
“A much-needed book for today’s youth.”—School Library Journal
“[T]imely and important. A must-have for libraries serving teens.”—Kirkus Reviews
Interest Level: Grade 8 – Grade 12 · Reading Level: Grade 7
We live in an era of misinformation, much of it spread by authority figures, including politicians, religious leaders, broadcasters, and, of course, apps and websites.
In this second edition, author John Grant uses ripped-from-the-headlines examples to clearly explain how to identify bad evidence and poor arguments. He also points out the rhetorical tricks people use when attempting to pull the wool over our eyes, and offers advice about how to take these unscrupulous pundits down. Updated to include a chapter on fake news, Debunk It serves as a guide to critical thinking for young readers looking to find some clarity in a confusing world.
- 2020 YALSA Outstanding Books for the College Bound, Winner, 2020
- Notable Award Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, Winner, 2020
Praise for Debunk It:
“In an era of fake news, click-bait, and viral media, this book demands to be read.”—Kirkus Reviews
Media: From News Coverage to Political Advertising by Sandy Donovan
From the series Inside Elections
Interest Level: Grades 6-8 · Reading Level: Grade 6
The frenzied news coverage during a political election is unstoppable. Political ads also bombard you from every source—websites, TV, radio, and print. Then there are the memes, links, and video clips that show up through social media. Are these just annoyances, or do media messages actually shape an election’s outcome? News outlets, campaign staff, and even members of the public use many forms of media for different purposes: to explain candidates’ platforms, to explore issues, to expose controversy, and more. Some messages are biased, while others try to be balanced. Examine opposing viewpoints on some of the key issues involving media’s role and consider for yourself what power media has to influence the election process.
From the Series Searchlight Books ™ — Getting into Government
Interest Level: Grades 3-5 · Reading Level: Grade 3
Give readers an engaging look at the media and government. Historical background and modern examples of how the media and government interact will help readers engage with this timely topic.
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