Monday, June 2, 2014

Read-alikes: Students engage with journalism

Student journalism is a rich subject to explore for themes that include the ethics of reporting and the responsibility of a news publisher to the community it serves. This booklist features several books written for upper-elementary reading audiences. While the youthful protagonists come from varying backgrounds, they all engage with the power and responsibility of news media.

Book cover: The Last Newspaper Boy in America by Sue Corbett. The book's title is printed in a rolled newspaper thrown by the silhouette of a boy on a bicycle
The Last Newspaper Boy in America
by Sue Corbett

David family males have delivered the newspaper in Steele, Penn. for as long as the town has existed, with each boy taking over the route when he turns 12 years old.

On the eve of his 12th birthday, Wil David receives unwelcome news: the Cooper County Caller will end newspaper delivery to Steele. Wil’s efforts to save newspaper delivery take place against the backdrop of a town trying to survive hard times.

Book cover: The Landry News by Andrew Clements. A little girl reads a newspaper while, behind her, a man holds up another newspaper. His facial expression, with its creased eyebrows, is characteristic of being upset.
The Landry News by Andrew Clements
Fifth-grader Cara Landry creates her own newspaper, with an editorial rebuking her teacher, Mr. Larson, for failing to teach his students.

At first resentful of the editorial, Mr. Larson concludes Cara is right. He’s inspired to draft lessons around freedom of the press and the responsibilities of journalism, while Cara learns an important lesson about the “heart” with which a newspaper can color its reporting of “the facts.”

Book cover: Girl Reporter Blows Lid off Town! by Linda Ellerbee. Two middle-school aged girls look toward what would be the right from the perspective of someone looking at this cover. The girl on the left has her right hand pressed to her forehead and a smile on her face. The second girl has a more solemn expression and has her hands on her hips.
Girl Reporter Blows Lid Off Town!
by Linda Ellerbee

Aspiring journalist Casey Smith resents the involvement of a classmate, Megan O’Connor, in her efforts to revive her middle school’s student newspaper. Casey is determined to prove that a paper mill is polluting the local river; she learns to appreciate Megan’s guidance as she pursues her investigation. This book dramatizes the ethics of news-gathering and illustrates the contributions made by an editor when shaping the final report.

Book cover: Darnell Rock Reporting by Walter Dean Myers. The cover image depicts the head and shoulders of a middle-school aged boy with a halo over his head.
Darnell Rock Reporting by Walter Dean Myers
A school-paper editorial by 13-year-old Darnell Rock prompts a discussion by the city council about what to do with a vacant lot and leads to an invitation to write an article for the local newspaper.

Through interviewing a homeless man and observing what happens after his article makes it into print, Darnell learns first-hand about the power of the press to give a voice to people who are marginalized by society — and the importance of not dismissing any person’s potential.

Blog author’s note: On the Harris County (Texas) Public Library website, Linda Stevens defines the “read-alike” as “a book or series that shares a commonality with another book or series that might appeal to the same reader. It could be a similar tone, setting, depth of characterization or type of plot.” A good read-alike, according to Stevens, “connects the elements you enjoy through different books and authors.”

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