Spotting Misinformation and #FakeNews: 10 Resources To Teach Students Media Literacy

#Fakenews is a growing epidemic. In an interview recorded for this year’s SLJTeen Live!, Peter Adams, the News Literacy Project’s senior vice president of education, said, “The belief that all information is somehow tactical—is out to manipulate us in some way, has an ulterior motive, is against us—is something we’re all vulnerable to.”  

This booklist for upper-elementary, middle, and high school students offers the tools to develop a critical eye and thoughtfully evaluate news sources.

Millennials and Gen Z kids have come of age in a digital world. Now, more than ever, our way of life, including the way we conduct business and how we build and sustain interpersonal relationships, is conducted online. The internet allows people to access a wealth of information with relative ease and foster global connections. However, there are considerable downsides to online engagement. The dissemination of fake news, misinformation, and propaganda is a pressing issue. 

In an interview recorded for this year’s SLJTeen Live!, Peter Adams, the News Literacy Project’s senior vice president of education, said, “The belief that all information is somehow tactical—is out to manipulate us in some way, has an ulterior motive, is against us—is something we’re all vulnerable to.”

Publishers are beginning to offer more resources that address this aspect of media literacy. While quality materials for lower elementary students are lacking, the selection of titles for upper elementary through high school is growing.

This list will help students develop a critical eye and thoughtfully evaluate sources.

Upper Elementary and Middle School

Fake News by Kari A. Cornell. ReferencePoint/Brightpoint. 2019. ISBN 9781682827154.
Gr 3-7–This authoritative work clearly describes the basics of fake news for upper elementary and middle school students. Of particular note, the text contains fascinating examples of the use of propaganda in early United States history. Readers are advised to be wary of doctored photos as a tool in fake news, an aspect often missing from elementary works on the topic.

What Is Propaganda? by Matt Doeden. Lerner. 2019. ISBN 9781541555761.
Gr 3-6–This helpful primer provides a clear definition of the term, including how it's sometimes factual and how it’s used by governments and organizations to stir up emotions about issues.

What’s Fake News? by Joyce Jeffries. Rosen/KidHaven. 2019. ISBN 9781534525832.
Gr 3-5–This basic introduction to fake news outlines the issues for elementary readers. The clear, concise writing explains the major aspects, including social media, misuse of the term fake news, distrust of the media, and the importance of talking to adults about factual and fake news. This should be a staple in every elementary collection.

Building Your Knowledge in the Digital World by Megan Kopp. Crabtree. 2018. ISBN 9780778745884.
Gr 4-6–A well-rounded introduction for upper elementary students that shows them how to conduct effective online research. Each two-page spread details different aspects of research; many spreads pertain to spotting fake news. Readers learn how to determine credible URLs and sources, avoid ads, recognize misinformation, and understand the importance of citations.

Middle and High School

How Does Fake News Threaten Society? by John Allen. ReferencePoint. Oct. 2020. ISBN 9781682828793.
Gr 8 Up–This comprehensive overview of modern fake news focuses on two major areas of our society: politics and medical information. The text also discusses topics not usually mentioned in other works, such as deepfake videos, social media influencers, and microtagging. This in-depth resource also includes a chapter detailing how fake news influences teens, which helps make it stand out from the crowd.

Fake News: Separating Truth from Fiction by Michael Miller. Lerner/Twenty-First Century. 2019. ISBN 9781541528147.
Gr 8 Up–This detailed resource outlines the basics of modern-day examples of fake news, including why it’s used, its effects on society, and how to identify truth from fiction. Two chapters of note: “Who Believes Fake News” and “Fake News & Free Speech” provides thoughtful discussions that would be useful fodder for classroom lessons.

True or False: A CIA Analyst's Guide to Spotting Fake News by Cindy L. Otis. Feiwel & Friends. Jul. 2020. ISBN 9781250239495.
Gr 8 Up–An excellent and thoroughly engaging resource for educators and high school students looking to debunk fake news. The text starts with a comprehensive look at fake news and propaganda campaigns throughout history. The second half provides detailed information and exercises. Readers learn how to spot fake news and check their bias at the door. A title that should be required reading.

Fake News and Propaganda by Fiona Young-Brown. Cavendish Square. 2019. ISBN 9781502644961.
Gr 7 Up–A brief but balanced overview of the topic for middle and high school students, which includes liberal and conservative examples of historical and modern-day instances of fake news and propaganda. This title provides an international perspective and a discussion of how governments in some European countries (France and Germany) are fighting fake news through legislation.

Read: Fighting the Infodemic: New Strategies for News Literacy

Educators and Librarians

Fact vs. Fiction: Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News by Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins. International Society for Technology in Education. 2018. ISBN 9781564847041.
This title is a valuable tool for educators looking for a one-stop list of online resources for working with upper-elementary through high school students. Chapters six and seven provide an extensive list of resources, including lesson plans, fake news examples, articles, games, infographics, and summaries from educators who have implemented lessons. Despite its 2018 pub date, the majority of featured URLs are still active.

News Literacy: The Keys to Combating Fake News by Michelle Luhtala & Jacquelyn Whiting. Libraries Unlimited. 2018. ISBN 9781440861529.
OrangeReviewStarHigh school media specialists looking to develop a comprehensive information literacy curriculum will find this invaluable. Twenty-six detailed lesson plans unpack the gamut of information literacy, including evaluating sources, opinions and editorials, parody, propaganda, fact-checking, and First Amendment rights. An overview of the stages of research and rubrics with humorous pop culture references are included.


Karen Bilton has been a librarian in public libraries for over 20 years. She has worked in adult services, youth services, and bookmobile outreach. Currently, she is the teen librarian for Franklin Township Public Library in Somerset, NJ.

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Kathryn Wellington

Unfortunately, the first 3 titles for Upper Elementary and Middle School are currently unavailable through regular vendors.

Posted : Aug 19, 2020 05:21


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