Today’s learners are confronted with an ever-widening information landscape. Unlike the highly-curated newspapers and print materials of our grandparents, we—and the teens we serve—encounter everything from textbooks to social media. We are in an era where opinion, fact, and cultural context makes “truth” a murkier experience than ever before. Our idea that information can be “objective” is no longer a reliable rule of thumb. This new era means our traditional definitions of literacy needs to expand to account for these changes. Information today is deeply contextual and cultural, and authority is increasingly dependent on one’s existing perspective and lived experience.
In this toolkit, we use the “fake news” phenomenon as an approach to print and digital literacies. We re-examine and discuss culturally-inclusive print and digital literacy strategies we can use with teens to help them make sense of their world and build a robust set of skills as they prepare to enter college or start careers.
While fake news has existed for centuries, today’s digital and social landscape which allows fake news to spread rapidly is new and is often at odds with our critical thinking abilities. Now is the time for library staff to take action, knowing that teens need help in this area, and that this is a concern shared beyond our field.
Because most news is written at a 4th–7th grade level, using “fake news” is a way to re-frame how we approach discussions, activities, and conversations with teens about print and digital literacies. These activities are accessible even for our English Language Learners or those who struggle with the written word. This issue can be far more nuanced than it seems at first. For example, issues of cognitive bias—our brains believing something so strongly that new information cannot change our minds— make it clear that difficulties overcoming misconceptions are significant barriers to keep in mind.
Check out the Teen Literacies Toolkit at ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/TeenLiteraciesToolkit_WEB.pdf.
Source: Young Adult Library Services Association