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Lerner’s new sports database (LernerSports.com) scores some serious points when it comes to its sleek, user-friendly design and accessibility. Dedicated to profiles of noteworthy athletes and aimed at students in grades 2–5, it organizes clearly its high-interest content by sport, with large icons indicating five categories: Baseball, Football, Soccer, Basketball, and More Sports, this last a catchall for gymnastics, swimming, boxing, tennis, golf, horseback riding, etc. Clicking on one of these icons—let’s use Basketball for this example—takes users to a page of crisp, clearly labeled thumbnail images of basketball players alphabetically arranged by last name. Though only three women basketball players are included in the lineup at the time of this review, Lerner states it will be regularly adding new profiles and updating articles on a quarterly basis. Users can scroll through stars like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James until they find one about whom they’d like to know more.
Clicking on an athlete’s picture takes users to an attractive, easy-to-navigate page sporting his or her biography. There, they’ll be greeted by a colorful banner with the person’s photo and name, topped by a menu ribbon that allows users to quickly jump to different page sections; it also features glossary, source notes, and article-citation icons that produce pop-ups when clicked, allowing for handy reference without navigating away from the page. Each biography begins with “Fast Facts” that state the athlete’s birth date, position, and league, followed by side-by-side columns listing his or her professional and personal highlights. These bite-sized introductory facts will hold particular appeal for browsers and emerging readers.
Five sections of narrative nonfiction follow, spaciously formatted with large-size fonts, many well-chosen photos, and color bars bearing headings to clearly indicate new sections of content; glossary terms appear in bold and are instantly defined when the cursor hovers over them. This portion of the page relays information on the athlete’s childhood, journey to stardom, and major accomplishments. Concluding “All-Star Stats” round out each entry; these are printed in descending chronological order and offer a nice recap of the biography’s key information. Students who make it to the very bottom of the page will find suggestions for other athletes they may find interesting.
Overall, this is a well-designed resource that should only improve with time. It would be nice to see more women and women’s sports featured, especially since two of the primary sports categories, Football and Baseball, are exclusive to men. Another area that could use a slight tweak is the database’s search capabilities. The search bar is easily accessible from every page and it utilizes fuzzy logic to generate suggestions, which is particularly helpful where typos are concerned—such as in my “Gabi Douglas” search. Doh! However, only athlete names are searchable: my keyword searches for “swimming” and “gymnastics” turned up zero results, despite the database’s inclusion of athletes in those fields. At this stage, there are a manageable number of entries to skim through in the More Sports tab, but as more are added, searching by sport—or even by team name—will become a necessary feature. Lerner also claims that every article can be instantly translated into other languages via Google Translate; however, I was unable to find this potentially useful feature.
This database is available through an annual subscription plan (listed at $199, with other pricing models available upon request) and is designed to adapt to various devices, including laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks. From the administrator’s page, teachers and/or librarians can also access a “Reporting” page that shows database usage statistics among their students, such as the most-viewed articles, when they were viewed (a date-range filter is also available), and the number and dates of logins. This up-to-date resource can supplement or expand titles within the publisher’s existing book series, such as Sports All-Stars, but it firmly stands on its own. Lerner Sports delivers its promise of offering kid-friendly content to young researchers or sports enthusiasts, especially those most interested in mainstream U.S. athletics.
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