Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Behind the Books: Go, Go, PebbleGo*

Lately, it seems like Capstone’s PebbleGo is sweeping the nation. At almost every school I visit, elementary students are using the research database to gather information for reports and projects. I think that’s great because I rely heavily on research databases too, and now I can discuss that part of my research process with students.

The PebbleGo database is an online encyclopedia in which each topic is discussed at three different complexity levels, and students can choose the one they want to read. It also has an audio option that makes research possible for pre-literate students.

The databases I use are a little bit different. They help me locate articles on a particular topic in science journals. In some cases, I can download the articles for free. When there’s a fee, I google the title to see if I can find it for free on the Internet. If so, I download it there. If not, I can often get it for free through Interlibrary Loan. If that doesn’t work, I may contact the lead scientist and ask him/her to send me a PDF.
I read dozens of articles for many of the books I write, gleaning small bits of information from each one. I couldn’t have written Feathers: Not Just for Flying or the A Place for books or Summertime Sleep, a new picture book coming out in 2017, without combing through journal articles for key information.

Why are scientific papers so important? Because they are the best way to get up-to-date information, and they often include important details that articles written for a lay audience leave out. These articles also help me to understand the intricacies and challenges of a scientist’s research, so that I can talk intelligently when I interview him/her.

I love that I can now explain this important part of my process to even young students and they get it because, like me, they use a database as part of their own research process.

*I do not endorse PebbleGo over other databases for elementary students. It’s merely an observation that most of the schools I visit seem to have selected this particular product.


  1. Our elementary school also uses PebbleGo. It seems to be well organized and user friendly. Maybe that's why it's so popular. Or, maybe it's because librarians share information, and when something works for one librarian/school, it doesn't take long for that word to get passed along to others. Or, maybe Capstone has excellent sales reps. :D

    I like how you show the parallel between how you use database resources and how kids use their databases.