March 29, 2019
This week I'm off presenting at a conference in Portland, Oregon, on the topic of fake news and how books for kids and teens try to entice readers to focus on facts.
Our brains are wired to click on stories that confirm our biases and tug our heartstrings. Fake news works because the fakers understand that.
And they're getting rich wasting our time and deceiving us.
How a Lie Spreads Six Times Faster than the Truth
If you've ever clicked on a headline that begins You Won't Believe... (and believe me, I've clicked on a few) you're putting money into somebody's pocket.
If you've ever shared a story on Facebook without actually reading it, because the headline said exactly what you think, you've most likely passing on fake news that's been fed to you by algorithms that know nearly as much about you as you know about yourself.
This young man made $60,000 in six months writing fake news stories for Americans that paid a penny-per-click from advertisers. Might not sound like a fortune to you, but in Macedonia where he lives the average annual wage is
Dimitri doesn't want his real name used, but he told reporters it's pretty darn easy during a presidential election year to rake in the dough.
A study at MIT found, on average, a lie spreads six times faster than the truth.
Authors of nonfiction books for kids and teens know how human brains are wired, too. They use a combination of methods to entice someone to pick up a book and keep reading to the end. (Where they have a number of pages citing the sources of their
information to prove it's fact not fake.)
Once a kid is drawn in by the cover, Heather uses a personal tone to tell how a dead snake in the road sparked her interest in the topic. She takes readers through the scientific process with a cheeky style, and provides plenty of juicy details--blood and guts--to keep them reading. (You'll need to read the book to hear about those!)
The author uses these methods to hook kids, but also inspires them to ask their own questions about what they see in the world. By the end they've learned how roadkill has been used by scientists around the world to discover amazing things. Like how biologists who use the corpses of Tasmanian devils to investigate cures for a contagious cancer. Did you even know there was contagious cancer?
Heather says, "Each discovery turned me a few degrees away from tragedy toward awe." And she takes kids along on that journey.
Another book I'll be talking about at the Association of Writing Programs Conference takes readers in a completely different direction, back into history, to the time of Germany's descent in to Nazism.
But he begins the story showing and telling kids how this hero of the WWII era was once a kid just like them, how he liked sports, music, reading and playing with his twin sister. Then draws readers into to Dietrich's journey as a theologian by starting when he was a four-year-old.
One day while enjoying his noon meal, Dietrich asked his mother, "Does God, too, eat lunch?" An asterisk by these words tells readers this quote is not made up, but comes from a credible source.
The story explores huge concepts like good and evil and determining the common good by showing one man wrestle with his ideas about God, and go to his death for engaging in a plot to kill Hitler. With plenty of suspense in-between.
After finishing the book, readers can visit the author/illustrator's website where John Hendrix writes about his journey in the footsteps of Dietrich Bonhoffer.
John traveled with his sketchbook to Flossenbürg, home to the concentration camp where Dietrich was executed in 1945. (shown in photo)
For both of the books mentioned here, the author provides information about their search for the facts of the story and insight into the passion which drove them to spend ten-years in the case of Heather Montgomery, and five years for John Hendrix to complete these books.
On my way home from Portland today, I'm stopping in Tri-Cities, Washington for the last two stops on the #YASurvivalTour with young adult fiction writers Maureen McQuerry and Stephen Wallenfels.
Friday, March 29th
4pm in Kennewick at the Columbia Center Barnes & Noble
Saturday, March 30th
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