Skip To Main Content

The Importance of News Literacy

Amelia Herring, Middle School Librarian; Emma Johnson, Upper School Librarian; & Stephanie Donohue-Ganesh, Library Director

Contrary to popular belief, librarians in 2022 aren’t just keepers of books, though we do rock a snazzy pair of glasses from time to time. At Dana Hall, the librarians jump at any opportunity to get students excited not only about reading, but also about being deliberate and thoughtful consumers and producers of information. This skill is increasingly important once our students graduate and enter the adult world, where they will be expected to navigate information and misinformation in their day-to-day personal and professional lives. 

The critical skills of the 21st century aren’t about memorizing facts, but rather knowing how and where to find them. While it sounds simple enough, as our lives move increasingly online and the news landscape changes from traditional media to social media, the assumption that all news is accurate is no longer viable. A 2019 survey by Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey indicated that today’s teens are more likely to get their news (and life hacks) from social media sources like TikTok or YouTube than from the news organizations that their parents rely on. And, it is worth noting that this survey was completed before the pandemic forced teens’ socializing into the digital realm! 

We librarians are present in classes across all grade levels and subjects at Dana Hall to provide instruction on evaluating sources and reading critically. Students in both 5th and 9th grades benefit from direct instruction on these topics and more in the Skills 5 and Skills 9 classes, respectively. For our youngest students, that looks like exploring traditional media sources like magazines and newspapers, and comparing them with their digital counterparts. We define “click bait,” and discuss the importance of evaluating a website before using it for research. In the 9th grade Skills classroom, students dive deep into ideas like bias and “filter bubbles,” supported by resources like the News Literacy Project. This past spring, the class drew on real world events as students looked at the role of TikTok in spreading facts and myths about the war in Ukraine. And, as always, Dana Hall librarians are available outside the classroom at the circulation desk for a quick chat or through private appointments for in-depth research. 

While the Dana Hall librarians are known to embrace a good life hack or TikTok dance craze, we also enjoy seeing our students blossom into savvy discerners of information! 

Photo: Students moving books into the Classroom Building in 1956, courtesy of the Nina Heald Webber '49 Archives, which are located within the Helen Temple Cooke Library