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Peoria Public Library, District 150 working to improve media literacy

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Joe Deacon
Peoria Public Schools District 150 Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat joins Peoria Public Library Executive Director Randall Yelverton on Thursday in announcing a partnership aimed at improving media literacy.

Peoria Public Schools and the Peoria Public Library have joined in a partnership to teach media awareness to students of all ages, as well as adults.

The library and District 150 on Tuesday announced the union to develop programming designed to help people identify trustworthy information and discourage the spreading of inaccurate content.

“I think it's important to understand that some of the information that you're receiving has not been well edited or well vetted; it's just put onto the internet,” said Peoria Public Library Executive Director Randall Yelverton.

“Sometimes it's folks who believe it to be good information they’re sharing, but sometimes it comes from bad actors. Because of that, you need to have the ability to and the tools to discern good from bad information, so that you can take that information, discern whether it's accurate, and then incorporate that into your day-to-day life.”

With National Media Literacy Week continuing through Friday, District 150 Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said it’s an ideal time to highlight the dangers of misinformation.

“We’re seeing what’s going on: kids are getting inundated with tons of information that’s not vetted, and a majority of it is inaccurate,” said Kherat. “When I was growing up, I just had TV and newspaper and radio, and now you have TikTok, Instagram and Facebook and all sorts of things, and more are being invented and coming down the pike.

“Hopefully with updated education around pros and cons, responsibility, fake and real, and being an independent, critical thinker — we cannot do enough of that.”

The Media Literacy Act passed this year by the Illinois General Assembly requires all public high schools to add media literacy instruction beginning in 2022-23. The library plans to work with nonprofit agencies, like the Center for News Literacy and the Freedom Forum, to help District 150 build on its current media literacy lessons and create programs to complement the instruction when the law goes into effect.

Yelverton noted, however, that a need for more media awareness isn’t limited to high schoolers.

“I think social media, for instance, has caught on so relatively quickly that even adults have not been really aware of all the ways it's working to be able to look behind the curtain,” he said. “We hope with Media Literacy Week, that we're going to be able to give all ages, including adults who are active social media users, information on how social media works, how sharing works, so that they can begin to get a better idea of whether the information they're receiving is accurate.”

The library has two hour-long virtual programs scheduled this week to address media literacy, beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday with a class geared toward students in grades 4-8 on ways to evaluate information sources and develop research skills.

A conversation for adults on the role of media in people’s lives and sharpening critical thinking skills is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday.

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