Clearly, 2020 has presented educational challenges in technology and social justice. At first, these topics may be seen as two distinct issues. Yet, they come together in Read the World: Rethinking Literacy for Empathy and Action in a Digital Age by Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris.

Read the World focuses on using technology and building empathy through teaching students the skills they need to be strong readers. In chapter one, Ziemke and Muhtaris describe their pedagogical beliefs. Students need to be independent, they need to collaborate and create, and the classroom and curriculum need to be focused on them. Chapter 2 shares over 15 lessons to help students better comprehend digital texts, including infographics and images. Chapter 3 dives deeper into developing critical thinking and empathy through lessons that help students learn to use different lenses and perspectives. Finally, chapter 4 moves from students’ consumption of reading to their creation of content that will help make our world better.

Each lesson explains with its purposes, the protocol, and ample examples of student work, which is often a combination of both offline and online writing. While the lessons are mainly geared to upper elementary/middle school students, I found several takeaways that I am already planning to use with my high schoolers:


  • Questions We May Ask to Consider a Text from Multiple Viewpoints. These are questions provided by Ziemke and Muhtaris that prompt students think beyond the text to other points of view. I particularly like these questions: 
  • What information aren’t they telling us? 
  • What values, cultures, or beliefs are represented in the text?
  • How does the author use language or text features to attract attention?


Already, I’ve referred to these questions often as I’ve worked on lessons plans for the coming year.



  • Using Padlet to Structure a Lesson. Ziemke explains how she uses a Padlet page to organize online reading and responding. In this example, she provides images to view, texts to read, and a link to Flipgrid for student responses. All these can be easily modified. Students could give feedback to images or choose which text to read. Students can also easily leave written responses directly on Padlet if they aren’t comfortable with Flipgrid (I find that the older students are, the less comfortable they are with filming themselves.)




  • New York Times’ “What’s Going On in This Graph” and “What’s Going On in This Picture?” How did I not know about these weekly features? Each week, a new infographic and image is published at these links, and students are encouraged to study and analyze these visual texts. This is a great inquiry-based approach to reading these digital texts and developing analytical skills.



Read the World is a great reference for any literary teacher, especially at the middle levels. It’s a testament that critical reading, technology and empathy can be successfully intertwined to prepare our kids to be difference makers.