Roadmap to Reality: Helping Kids Find Their Way in a World of Fake News

By Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson

Odds are that your kid has already heard about fake news, whether it’s from the internet, television, or even family and friends. With all the clickbait, hoaxes, opinions posing as facts, and ads made to mirror real life, it can be harder and harder for any of us to grasp the real truth. Sometimes it seems that the internet’s WWW might as well stand for Wild, Wild West… and print and television aren’t necessarily that much better.

The challenge — for kids as well as adults — is to figure out whether something we’re reading is actually true or not, and knowing how to do that is an essential skill for navigating our modern age of information. So what can you do to help your child navigate this winding road, without running into the many potholes along the way? Here are some quick tips to get things moving in the right direction:

How to spot fake news:

  • Encourage your child to never stop at the title or headline! Always read and consider the whole piece before making any decisions.
  • Ask them, is this really news? Or is it opinion, speculation, or satire? Show kids examples of these other forms of writing, so they’ll know what to look for.
  • Help them see if it’s being reported by more than one source. If it’s real, it should be!
  • Do you recognize the sources? Are they generally believed to be trustworthy?
  • Do the sources reveal their sources? If not, that can be a big red flag.
  • Talk to your child about who the piece was written for. What audience did the author have in mind?
  • Ask your child why the media exist: Is it to inform, persuade, or entertain? Thinking about the purpose and potential motivations behind the piece can be very illuminating, and not knowing the purpose can be disastrous!
  • Have your child look for any obvious mistakes or omissions. Any errors they might find suggest carelessness and should cast doubt on the accuracy of the whole piece.

The key is to teach kids how to be responsible consumers of information without making them so cynical that they don’t believe anything anymore. This quandary is what led us to write the Two Truths and a Lie series. Our goal in these books is to demonstrate that “you can’t always believe what you read” while also guiding readers in the fine art of digging out the truth for themselves… all while making sure they have a great time and pick up some amazing new knowledge about the real world.

The premise for the book series is simple: Each chapter contains three stories; two are completely true, and the other is made up. Never mind that the false story may contain some very real-looking photos and might reference people and facts which are, independently, true. The idea is to get kids’ minds working, to teach them to use their research, logic, and analytical skills to sort out the facts from the fakes. Each Two Truths and a Lie book includes an extensive section on developing and honing these skills, as well as loads of entertaining practice. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction!

As strange as it may be, though, the truth is out there… even if it’s sometimes hard to find, and it’s worth investing the time and energy necessary to reap the joys of discovering it.

Because that’s all any of us really want for our kids: for them to be happy, well-informed travelers on the road of life. And that’s no lie!


Find the Books:

Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive!

Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries

About the authors:

Ammi-Joan Paquette has traveled to twenty-seven countries, has the ability to wake herself up at a given time without an alarm clock, and once climbed Mount Everest. (Not all of these are true!) She is the author of the novels Rules for Ghosting, Paradox, and Nowhere Girl, as well as the Princess Juniper series, and many more. She is also the recipient of a PEN/New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award Honor. Joan lives outside Boston, where she balances her own writing with her day job as a literary agent. You can visit her online at www.ajpaquette.com.

Laurie Ann Thompson has ridden a pig, gotten stuck in an elevator overnight, and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. (One of these isn’t true!) She is the author of many nonfiction books, including Emmanuel’s Dream, a picture book biography of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, which was the recipient of the Schneider Family Book Award and was named an ALA Notable Book and a CCBC Choice, among other accolades. She lives outside Seattle with her family, and you can visit her online at www.lauriethompson.com.