How do we help students distinguish between real and fake news?? Journalist and author, Nick Sheridan, has written a helpful book that was born out of necessity as the world was gripped by the pandemic and information was constantly changing. He wondered “what must kids make of all this?”. His blog piece is fantastic and this book would be ideal for classrooms!
The concept for “Breaking News” came chiefly from working in a BBC newsroom as the enormity of Covid-19 became apparent to us all. In March of 2020, our running orders were consumed by the pandemic – it was true “public service broadcasting”, as audiences turned off Netflix and Spotify and TikTok and tuned in to our bulletins. It felt like, for the first time in a long time, news bulletins were absolutely vital to their audience. As awful as the headlines we were writing were, it was exhilarating as a news reporter to know that what you reported mattered to people.
One night – the Prime Minister was staring grimly down the barrel of a camera and addressing nation, telling us all to “stay at home”. Lockdown had begun. As we hurried to write scripts for bulletins and bring the news to the nation, I thought of the millions of people who would be watching their televisions tonight: anxious, uncertain, scared.
And then I thought: “what must kids make of all of this?”
If adults were feeling frightened and confused by the unfolding horror movie going on around us, how would children be feeling? If adults didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t, then how could a kid tell the difference?
Soon, kids were being told to stay out of school. They were being told that their friends couldn’t come to their birthday parties. They couldn’t give their granny or grandad a cuddle.
To them, big charts and complicated-looking graphs were useless. Men and woman in suits talking about “variants” and “R numbers” might as well have been speaking gibberish.
If only, I thought, there was a manual to explain all the bad news, good news, weird news, confusing news and FAKE news that kids are confronted with every day of their lives. That would, of course, be impossible: every news story is different. But maybe by giving children the knowledge and tools they need to properly understand where news comes from, I could equip them to handle any challenging news story that came their way.
I wanted to write a book that I would have loved as a child: a window onto a world that is usually reserved for adults. And I wanted them to have fun along the way.
To laugh, to think and to understand – I don’t think that’s too much to ask for the future generation.
Breaking News, I hope, is essential reading for young people – giving them a variety of tools to engage with, and critically assess, the information that they are consuming every day, regardless of the platform.
It is jam-packed with fun exercises and springboards that can be used inside and outside the classroom, to help them hone their media literacy. It encourages them to be curious about the world around them, exploring the worlds of good news, bad news and fake news through simple devices which will complement the curriculum, build confidence, creativity, individuality and positive skill-building.
The book, along with its companion resources, can form the foundation of many different skills tasks, exercises and workshops with multiple learning outcomes and objectives.
My entire family is made up of teachers – I know how challenging it is, how time-consuming it is. No book in the world will make teaching easy – but I do believe that Breaking News can make teaching easier, with plenty of room for students, and teachers, to have a bit of fun along the way.