Beyond ‘Fake News:’ Media Literacy Education

Misinformation isn’t a new phenomenon, but with the high volume of information available on the internet, it has become an undeniable challenge to our contemporary society. Luckily, people can learn how to evaluate the trustworthiness of information sources with media literacy tools. For the 2022-2023 school year, the state of Illinois became the first in the nation to require media literacy education to be incorporated into high school curricula, thanks to a new bill passed by the legislature.

According to Yonty Friesem, a professor at Columbia College Chicago who helped inform the bill, there are five basic tenets of media literacy. The principles are: 1) effectively accessing information and understanding the landscape of available media, 2) analyzing and evaluating media information for trustworthiness and bias, 3) creating media, 4) reflecting on media consumption practices and societal impacts, and 5) social and civic responsibility.

To learn more about the new media literacy education mandate in Illinois, check out the resources at the bottom of this post.

Children’s and Young Adult Books

Duhig, Holly
Media and the News. 2019 (Middle Grade Nonfiction).
This concise book uses images and infographics to explain the media to middle grade readers. The book begins by defining media and news. Duhig then develops a timeline of the history of media, which makes it easy to track the changes and important innovations in media and technology over time. Other chapters explore jobs in the media, media bias, censorship, advertising, and identifying fake news. This is a dynamic introduction to media literacy for young readers and an insightful look at the role of the media in our society.
(Available online)

Grant, Joyce
Illustrated by: Kathleen Marcotte
Can You Believe It? How to Spot Fake News and Find the Facts. 2022 (Middle Grade Nonfiction).
Author Joyce Grant recognizes that most people get their information online. This book is a careful guide to discerning which digital sources of information to trust. This book takes a deep dive into how real journalism works, what fake news is, and how to spot the difference. Organized into chapters that explore fake news and why it’s so popular, how real news gets made, some common types of fake news, and how to investigate what you see online, this is a must-read guide for kids who spend time online. With hilarious examples and lively illustrations, this book teaches critical thinking skills and makes it fun. Thanks to two step-by-step guides to deconstructing fake news articles, and an additional article kids can use to test themselves, readers are empowered to build their media literacy skills. An engaging tone that never talks down to kids, and a mix of illustration styles, from comics to fake news examples, make tricky concepts appealing and accessible. Supported by an author’s note, a glossary, sources, and an index, this book contains everything kids need to become media literate.
S.070.43 G7674ca

Grant, John
Debunk It! How to Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation. 2019 (Young Adult Nonfiction).
We live in an era of misinformation, much of it spread by people in prominent positions, including politicians, religious leaders, broadcasters, high-traffic bloggers, and, of course, websites. With frequent false or skewed statements coming from so many sources, how can anyone be expected to discover the truth? This book highlights ripped-from-the-headlines examples of misinformation, from climate change as a hoax to anti-vaccination sentiments, clearly explaining how to identify and debunk them. Grant also covers the rhetorical strategies bad actors use to influence media consumers, like logical fallacies, confirmation bias, and stereotyping. Originally published in 2015, this revised and updated edition includes a new “fake news” section and discusses how that term has become misappropriated. Although the subject matter can often be serious, the book is full of Grant’s trademark humor and perceptiveness that will keep teen readers interested.
S.121 G7674de

Gravel, Elise
Killer Underwear Invasion: How to Spot Fake News, Disinformation & Conspiracy Theories. 2022 (Middle Grade Graphic Nonfiction).
Can peanuts give you super strength? Were unicorns discovered on the moon? Did Martians really invade New Jersey? For anyone who has ever encountered outrageous stories like these and wondered whether they were true, this funny, yet informative book breaks down what fake news is, why people spread it, and how to tell what is true and what is not. With quirky illustrations and a humorous tone, Gravel brings her kid-accessible wit to the increasingly important subject of media literacy and equips younger readers with the skills needed to interact with global news.
S.070.43 G781ki

Jarrow, Gail
Spooked! How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America. 2018 (Young Adult Nonfiction).
Jarrow explores the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938. She highlights the artists behind the broadcast, the broadcast itself, the aftermath, and the repercussions which remain relevant today. On the night of October 30, 1938, thousands of Americans panicked when they believed that Martians had invaded Earth. What seemed to be breaking news about an alien invasion was, in fact, a radio drama based on H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, performed by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre actors. Some listeners became angry once they realized they had been tricked, and the reaction to the broadcast sparked a national discussion about fake news, propaganda, and the role of new media in society.
S.791.4472 J296sp

Otis, Cindy L.
True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News. 2020 (Young Adult Nonfiction).
“Fake news” is not a new phenomenon. Otis, a former CIA analyst, takes readers through 3,000 years of history from the ancient Egyptians to the founding fathers to the present day to show the impact of misinformation over the centuries. She shares practical tips on how to navigate the world of digital information, including identifying doctored photos or clickbait, and how to make sense of the information we receive each day. Most importantly, readers will learn how to understand and see past their own biases, think critically about important issues, and place world events into context. Written in a concise, conversational manner, this book also includes a wealth of photos, informative inserts, and sidebars containing interesting facts to engage readers in critical thinking and analysis.
S.070.43 Ot4tr

Perdew, Laura
Information Literacy in the Digital Age. 2017 (Young Adult Nonfiction).
The flow of information through our modern digital world has led to many new challenges and controversies. Written for young adult readers in a serious tone, this book examines the challenges involved in seeking and evaluating information from the vast array of sources available through digital technology. The short chapters cover important topics such as the history of information literacy and its new requirements in the information age, finding and evaluating information, and ethics and responsibility in the digital world.
S.302.231 P4129i

Rex, Michael
Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots. 2020 (Picture Book).
What is the difference between a fact and an opinion? It can be a tricky thing to understand. Some things are facts, like the number of robots in this book. Other things are opinions, like which robot would make the best friend, or which robot dances best. Sometimes, to tell the difference between a fact and an opinion, you need to wait to get more information. That is because facts can be proven true or false, and opinions are things you feel and believe but that you cannot prove. This colorful, kid-friendly book clearly illustrates the distinction between facts and opinions (and robots), allowing for a fun and foundational media literacy lesson for younger readers.
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Textbooks, Curriculum Guides, and Professional Development Resources

Hobbs, Renee
Media Literacy in Action: Questioning the Media. 2021.
Rapid convergence within the media environment has revolutionized the way people are communicating and using technology. Our relationship with media has never been so important nor so complex. To thrive in a media-saturated society, people need to ask critical questions about what we watch, see, listen to, read, and use. Covering topics from news and information to the internet to media consumption, this key textbook provides the tools to both empower and protect students as they navigate our increasingly complex media environment.
P63.M4 H635 2021

LaGarde, Jennifer and Darren Hudgins
Developing Digital Detectives: Essential Lessons for Discerning Fact from Fiction in the ‘Fake News’ Era. 2021.
By the authors of the bestselling Fact vs. Fiction, this book offers easy-to-implement lessons to engage students in becoming media literacy “digital detectives,” looking for clues, questioning motives, uncovering patterns, developing theories and, ultimately, delivering a verdict. This guidebook also includes: 1) lessons beyond the “fake news” protocols to determine information credibility, 2) examples for presenting media literacy skills to young people inside or outside of schools, 3) examinations of the connections between social-emotional learning and information literacy, and 4) ideas for integrating technology to create learning opportunities for students that are meaningful, memorable, and ripe for real-world applications.
CURR. 153.42 INTSTE2021

Rogow, Faith
Media Literacy for Young Children: Teaching Beyond the Screen Time Debates. 2022.
This book is about media literacy and screen usage, but more importantly, it is about how early childhood educators and professionals can prepare children for their digital future. This book is a first-of-its-kind guide for pre-service and currently practicing teachers and child care professionals looking for pedagogically sound and developmentally appropriate ways to help today’s children navigate their media-rich world with confidence, curiosity, and critical thinking. Detailed descriptions of media literacy competencies, along with dozens of activities, strategies, and tips designed for children ages 2–7, demonstrate how to integrate foundational skills, knowledge, and dispositions into existing routines as well as experiment with new lessons.
CURR. 302.23 NAEYC2022

References / Resources

NPR: “Illinois Now Requires Media Literacy Instruction in its High School Curriculum”
This interview with Associate Professor of Civic Media at Columbia College Chicago, Yonty Friesem, includes information about the basic tenets of media literacy education and the anticipated impact of the new law requiring media literacy to be taught in Illinois high schools.

Illinois Civics Hub: “Media Literacy Toolkit”
This media literacy toolkit from an organization supporting civics educators in Illinois provides details about the contents of Illinois House Bill 234, plus extensive lists of resources for educators to implement different types of media literacy lessons in classrooms.