The Ultimate Bookshelf for a Youth Media Educator

Over the past two years educators and administrators working in all mediums of youth media have shared with YMR the books, videos, and reports that have most informed and deepened their work. The following list is a compilation of these recommendations placed into six categories: media reform, youth work, understanding youth media in its academic and socio-political context, media education curricula, media organization, and marketing youth media. Included are links to relevant articles that have appeared on YMR. These recommended resources provide a comprehensive look at youth media, highlights of YMR, and key discussions in the field.
Get Started with Media Reform
• “Speaking for Ourselves: A Youth Assessment of Local News Coverage,” the Youth Media Council
Researched and written by teens, this report explores how the Bay Area media represents (or, really, misrepresents) young people. The report resonates far beyond California, said Christopher Schuepp, who runs Young People’s Media Network. The issue of young people receiving an inordinate amount of negative press, said Schuepp, is an international problem. The report provides tips for encouraging reporters to write positive stories about teens.
Framing Youth: 10 Myths About the Next Generation, by Mike A. Males
This is another probing look at how the media represents youth. It “challenges the media to look beyond what the policy wonks are offering,” said Donna Myrow of L.A. Youth and “to ask where these statistics and trends are coming from, and why is the discussion almost always focused on teen violence when teens actually commit fewer crimes than adults.”
Fugitive Culture: Race, Violence, and Youth, by Henry A. Giroux
Not for the faint of heart, this “very academic, very theoretical text takes an unflinching look at how society denies young people their voices,” said Mindy Faber of Faultline Media, “and how that, in turn, affects the policies determining youth’s lives.” Exploring how the media, in particular, casts, and often criminalizes, young people—especially youth of color—the book indirectly makes a case for why young people must make their own media. Youth media practitioners will finish the book motivated to center their work on helping young people see how they are represented in the media, says Faber, “and how they can to reposition themselves and take control of their own images.”
It’s Not the Media: The Truth About Pop Culture’s Influence on Children, by Karen Sternheimer
“Like most great books, it defies conventional wisdom,” said Mark Goodman of the Student Press Law Center. Presenting a compelling explanation of why media bashing is both unjustified and dangerous, It’s Not the Media, ultimately, defends free expressions for youth journalists and all Americans.
Also see the following YMR articles exploring the youth perspective in the media:
“Do You Really Want to Be the Talk of the Town?”
What happened when a cable-access youth channel had the lens turned on it by a reporter from the New Yorker.
“Life During Wartime”
Award-winning radio, video, and articles about the war in Iraq created by young people provided the rarely-heard youth perspective on the war.
“Conventions Made Unconventional”
Nishat Kurwa, Youth Radio’s news director and international desk editor, talks about how she pitched stories to national outlets and what a youth perspective added to mainstream election coverage.
“Can Teens Save the Newspaper Business?”
Radio and online journalism have embraced youth media. Print publications need to get with the program.
“Courting the ‘Other’ Media”
From infatuation to going steady, partnering with professional news outlets can be tricky. Here are examples of successful relationships between youth- and adult-made media.
On Working with Young People
Lives on the Boundary: A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America’s Educationally Underprepared, by Mike Rose
This is the story of how “one intense teacher’s” attention turned the author from a disaffected, uninterested teenager into a curious college student, and ultimately a passionate teacher,” said Youth Communication editor Nora McCarthy. Most of Lives on the Boundary examines how Rose learned to reach out to other young people unaware of their ability to learn. “It validated my belief that to be successful at this work you need to treat every student as a puzzle that if you work hard enough you can understand,” said McCarthy.
For more help, inspiration, and food-for-thought on working with young people, also see YMR articles:
“Forget Hip-Hop—Get YCC”
Young people connect to adults who respect youth culture. Just make sure to take out the commercial.
“The Slightly Sentimental Diary of a Rookie Media Teacher and His Trial-by-Fire Training”
Cameras with teens behind them are dangerous weapons.
“Flipping the Script”
Should youth-made media involve adult meddling? An editor considers challenging young people’s stories integral to her job.
“The ‘Rescue’ Dilemma”
The winner of this year’s Best Documentary Oscar raises ethical questions for those in the youth media field.
“Social Work 101”
How to guide young people through painful, personal narratives.
Putting Youth Media in Context
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, by Jeff Chang
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, recommended by Ken Ikeda of Youth Sounds, explores the racial and economic divide that fuels hip-hop and, not coincidentally, much of American-made youth media. Though Chang does not speak directly about it, many of his observations on hip-hop (arguably a form of youth media in itself) also hold true for the field’s recent developments—like the melding of art with activism. Readers can ruminate on just how influential hip-hop has been to youth media’s current boom.
Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, by Jonathan Kozol
Kozol lays bare the disparity between money spent on kids and their teachers in suburban schools, versus those in inner cities. He argues that segregation is thriving in American urban public schools, and not by accident.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
Known for coining “reading the word is reading the world,” the Brazilian author Freire is a forefather of the youth and grassroots media movements. Committed to giving the typically voiceless a voice to transform society, Freire is also one of the most influential thinkers about late-20th century education. He believed learning occurred best through the give and take of dialogue, as well as through action with the intent to build community.
Literacy in a Digital World: Teaching and Learning in the Age of Education, by Kathleen Tyner
Literacy in a Digital World, takes the pulse of media literacy in the context of new and emerging communication technologies and assesses the multiple literacies in evidence in the 1990s: print, computer, informational, critical and media literacy. The book contextualizes arguments regarding the educational applications of computers and multimedia.
Teaching Youth Media: A Critical Guide to Literacy, Video Production, & Social Change, by Steve Goodman
Both Tyner’s and Goodman’s works “illustrate the importance of a multi-literate society and the need to have a strong media education movement in this country,” said Denise Gaberman, who helps New York City schools bring media education into classrooms.
Shaping Media Education Curricula
The Teaching for Understanding Guide, by Tina Blythe and Associates
The Bay Area-based Streetside Stories uses this guide to teach teachers how to develop media education curricula that meets the educational standards required in California. This guide shows educators in any state how to “define what is important for them to teach, and then to teach it so students can understand it,” said Linda Johnson, of Streetside Stories.
• “Flipping the Script,” by Just Think
Flipping the Script is packed with detailed lesson plans and activities that can be incorporated into most youth media programs. This curriculum and its 30-page guidebook help educators use hip-hop to engage young people in thinking critically about the media.
Center for Digital Storytelling’s website
This site is rich in resources to develop short media projects in classrooms. Denise Gaberman, who helps New York City schools bring media education to the classroom, finds it especially useful for teaching media to students and teachers who are “strapped for resources and time, have limited media making expertise, and don’t have the professional video or digital equipment at their fingertips,” she wrote in an email.
Merchants of Cool: A Report on the Creators & Marketers of Popular Culture for Teenagers, by Frontline
This video looks carefully at how creators and sellers of popular culture have made teenagers the “hottest consumer demographic in America,” according to Frontline. Dave Yanofsky of UthTV uses this video to fuel group discussions about youth culture, advertising, and media literacy. “Teens can use it to gain insight into how they often end up walking around with a huge bulls eye on their backs when it comes to advertising and the creation of ‘cool,’” said Yanofsky.
For more reading on media education, see YMR articles:
“Too Cool for School”
How youth media can keep struggling teens engaged.
“The Youth Media Nonprofit as Classroom”
A pioneering movement in higher education organizes curricula around the theory and practice of youth media.
Building a Strong Youth Media Organization
• Educational Development Center’s YouthLearn website
The Educational Development Center helped Time Warner grantees in build capacity to conduct effective program evaluations. This site details that work with easy-to-follow strategies, evaluation models, and tools for youth media programs looking to measure impact. EDC’s research on self-assessment methods common to the field is also available.
Urban Sanctuaries: Neighborhood Organizations in the Lives and Futures of Inner-City Youth, by Milbrey McLaughlin, Merita Irby, and Juliet Langman.
Drawing from a five-year study of six unidentified inner-city youth programs in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Southeast, the authors of this book examine strategies that visionaries at urban youth organizations use to make their programs thrive, despite significant challenges. “It’s over 10 years old now but still a good read,” wrote John Gwinn of Phillips Community Television in an email.
For more information on strengthening youth media groups, including professional development, see YMR articles:
“A Growth Opportunity”
A Phillips Community Television staff member shares what they’ve learned about how youth media benefits teens, and how to magnify its impact.
“Lifting the Burden of Proof”
Finding effective means of evaluation—and, preferably, ones that appeal to funders—is still a trial-and-error process for most youth programs.
“Getting Evaluated—and Noticed”
How to build evidence of impact on a tight budget.
“Cultivating a Field”
Youth media practitioners teach better when they have regular opportunities to learn from each other. Steven Goodman explains that can happen.
“Coffee, Colleagues, and Collaborative Learning”
Youth media organizations can revolutionize their craft by running their own study groups.
“On the Couch”
A growing number of youth media and arts groups consult regularly with mental health professionals. A youth publication’s shrink-on-call explains how he has helped the editors trust their instincts.
“Time to Reflect”
Youth media has become a bona fide field with its own practices, philosophies, and goals.
How to Get Youth Media Seen and Heard
SPIN Works!: A Media Guidebook for Communicating Values and Shaping Opinion.
Filled with clear directives on how to write a compelling press release, pick a spokesperson, pitch a story to reporters, and create a media plan, SPIN Works! is “the soup to nuts of basic media do’s and don’ts,” said Open Society Institute media officer Amy Weil, “it’s a very easy read, easy to understand.”
Also see YMR articles:
“Prime Time”
Leveraging the Press to Help Youth Media Make a Difference
“Getting Discovered”
Mindy Faber looks at what works and what doesn’t in youth media distribution, and how the Internet can change everything.
“Strength in Numbers”
How curating youth media around themes amplifies its impact—for both audience and media makers.

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