November 17, 2017

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Nurture Budding Researchers with a User-Friendly Database from Gareth Stevens

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Filled with simple facts and appealing visuals, Report Builder emphasizes inquiry-based learning while developing elementary students’ content-seeking skills.

Gareth Stevens’s Report Builder

Cost Report Builder currently offers four categories (“Birds,” “U.S. Presidents,” “Solar System,” and “People in My Community”); an annual subscription is $99 per resource. Multiyear pricing and special bundled discounts are also available.

Ease of Use and Visual Appeal With its point-and-click navigation and accessible interface, the database allows elementary students to focus on the content without worrying about how to locate it. Users select a subject by clicking on a colorful icon and are then taken to a new page with an assortment of large images organized in rows of three and arranged alphabetically (the U.S. presidents are grouped chronologically). From here, there are three ways to seek information: by scrolling through the images, using the search bar (typing a minimum of three letters yields possible matches), or searching alphabetically (users can choose a specific letter for a list of results; for instance, for the U.S. presidents, clicking “A” leads to a page with John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Chester A. Arthur).

Auditory learners, English language learners, and reluctant readers will find the text-to-speech function helpful. Vivid hues of yellow, blue, red, and green are used judiciously and provide vibrant contrast to the white background of each subject’s landing page.

Content Each of the four major subjects is broken down into multiple topics, including 91 bird species, all of the presidents, 18 celestial bodies, and 29 community helpers. Information is presented in question-and-answer format (“What are comets?” “Where do comets come from?”). The questions reflect common student inquiries and are similar from topic to topic (“Where is Jupiter?” “Where is Earth?” “Where is Mercury?”). Answers are brief and straightforward, and “Fun Facts” list one to three noteworthy tidbits.

Accompanying the text are historical and contemporary images, photos, artist renderings, charts, reproductions, and diagrams that support and enhance the material. Each is clearly captioned and cites its source, reinforcing the emphasis on proper research techniques.

More report-friendly content—“Weather and Seasons,” “U.S. Symbols and Landmarks,” and “Reptiles and Amphibians”—is scheduled to be released in August 2017. With new modules to be added every season thereafter, Report Builder will continue to present relevant, fresh information.

Student and Teacher Resources Students who prefer a hard copy of the material can print the articles and accompanying images; those who do not have immediate access to a printer can email the document with or without visuals to a designated recipient. Students who want a readily available ­digital copy can save articles to their personal computers as a PDF or to Google Drive.

“Educator Tools,” located at the bottom of the page, offer an array of options for teachers and librarians. A self-guided walkthrough of the site via PowerPoint or PDF can be found in the “Online Training” tab, while the “User’s Guide” provides educators with a four-page overview of the database’s functions. “Promotional Materials” contain posters and bookmarks, and “Web Buttons” include a graphic that links directly to the database, which educators can add to school or library websites. Libraries and schools can also sign up to receive “Usage Statistics” to track the site’s web traffic.

Perhaps most practical are “Teacher ­Materials,” where educators will find a ­lesson plan for each of the four areas of study, and “Curriculum Correlations,” a comprehensive and searchable microdatabase. Here, educators can view specific state, national, and supplemental standards, including Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards, C3 Framework for ­Social Studies State Standards, and ­National Council for the Social Studies Curriculum Standards, as well as Canadian provincial learning outcomes.

Verdict Supporting 21st-century learning skills, Report Builder provides beginning ­researchers with a solid foundation in information and digital literacy. This content-driven and media-rich resource helps young students locate the material they need to write effective reports. Engaging and uncomplicated, it supports multiple learning styles and meets state and national standards.

Audrey Sumser, Cleveland Public Library, OH

This article was published in School Library Journal's July 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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