Mims Books Children's Book Week Challenge #5: Humanities or Social Studies
Read a true fake-news story. Learn about the role and responsibility of a free press.
Today the Children's Book Week reading challenge is to read some humanities books. Say what? What are the humanities, anyway? It’s the study of humans and includes topics such as English, foreign languages. history, art history, religion, philosophy, regional studies, or ethnic studies. In short, it’s a very broad look at social studies.
What is fake news?
For the last five years, fake news has been a hot topic of conversation. But it’s hard to explain to kids - until now.
THE NANTUCKET SEA MONSTER: A Fake News Story is a nonpolitical look at an event that created fake news. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloons were created by Tony Sarg, who kept a summer home on Nantucket Island.
- A Junior Library Guild selection
- An NCTE 2018 Notable Children Book in Language Arts
- Translated into Korean
- Kirkus Review: “. . . the wry, playful delivery . . . keeps things entertaining, brilliantly inviting discussion about hoaxes while remaining kid appropriate. . . A thought provoking story with timely resonance.”
Do you believe everything you read in the newspaper?
Early in August 1937, a news flash came: a sea monster had been spotted lurking off the shore of Nantucket Island. Historically, the Massachusetts island had served as port for whaling ships. Eyewitnesses swore this wasn’t a whale, but some new, fearsome creature. As eyewitness account piled up, newspaper stories of the sea monster spread quickly. Across the nation, people shivered in fear.
Then, footprints were found on a Nantucket beach.
Photographs were sent to prominent biologists for their opinion. Discussion swirled about raising a hunting party. On August 18, news spread across the island: the sea monster had been captured. Islanders ran to the beach and couldn’t believe their eyes.
This nonfiction picture book is a perfect tool to discuss non-political fake news stories. Back matter discusses the freedom of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Quotes from Thomas Jefferson make it clear that fake news has always been one of the costs of a free press. A Timeline lists actual events in the order they occurred. A vocabulary list defines relevant words.
A short documentary film, drawing from some of the research in The Nantucket Sea Monster, is available on WGBH’s American Experience website, “The Gift of Tony Sarg.” Author Darcy Pattison is briefly interviewed on this film.
DISCUSS THE ISSUES - Fake News & Free Press
Was the publicity stunt right or wrong? Thomas Jefferson said, “When the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.”
But later, he wrote, “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.”
What is the role and responsibility of a free press in a country’s government?
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