University Libraries & Learning Sciences Faculty and Staff Publications

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Book Chapter

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From childhood on, we are taught how to read words on a printed page or, increasingly, on a screen. Reading text is also heavily reinforced across subjects throughout higher education. However, when it comes to instruction in visual information, such as charts, graphs, infographics, memes, or photographs, the same emphasis is not applied. (For the purposes of this chapter, we use the terms “visual information,” “images,” and “visual media” interchangeably to mean one or more of the various visual media with or without sound). By the time students enter college, they are underprepared to interpret images, let alone analyze, describe, and evaluate them.

Helping students develop the dispositions necessary to thrive in an increasingly virtual environment is essential to librarianship in the twenty-first century. The field of librarianship has begun to acknowledge that equipping students to develop a critical lens is necessary for evaluating the information they encounter daily. Since the release of the 2016 ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (Framework), librarians have also begun to integrate a metacognitive lens to information. Although the concept of critically reading images may be unfamiliar, we apply the tenets of criticality developed by these and other theorists to argue that images deserve the same thoughtful, rigorous evaluation. Indeed, we have seen images, often digitally mediated, have the power to persuade voters, social media and memes can drive protests, and opinions are influenced through a variety of altered media, including images. Critical reading empowers learners to constructively critique texts to change their social milieu. This chapter outlines the importance of teaching students to read images critically and provides two different lesson plans for librarians to do so.


Association of College & Research Libraries Press

Publication Title

Teaching Critical Reading Skills: Strategies for Academic Librarians, Volume 2:Reading for Evaluation, Beyond Scholarly Texts, and In The World

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critical reading; visual literacy; visual thinking strategies; information literacy; academic librarianship; library instruction

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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