Submitted by Stephanie Elms, Annandale VA
If you are anything like me, books are central to your homeschooling. Library books, ebooks, audio books, non-fiction, fiction, you name it, we love it. There are several apps related to books that I have found extremely useful.
By far, Goodreads is my most useful and all purpose book app. According to the website, Goodreads “is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Our mission is to help people find and share books they love.” Part social media, part book review extravaganza, part organizational tool, there is something for everyone on Goodreads.
In a nutshell, Goodreads allows you to unleash your inner librarian You can easily catalog books you own, books you have read and books you want to read and Goodreads gives you multiple tools for finding new books to add to your “to read” pile. You (or your child) can also rate books and write book reviews as well as see what books your friends are reading and read their reviews. You can follow your favorite author’s blogs and connect with other enthusiasts.
I use Goodreads in several different ways. First, I use it to catalog and organize books I own. You can manually search their database for the books you own or, even better for those of us truly geeky types, you can use the Goodreads app on your phone or tablet to scan the bar codes on your books for super easy cataloging. Once logged, you can add books to multiple user-defined “shelves” for easy recall.
My favorite use for Goodreads is tracking books that I want to read. I read a lot of Kid Lit blogs and am always coming across books that I want to check out. Before Goodreads, I had not found a truly workable method for keeping track of them. Now, when I see a book that I want to check out later, I add it to Goodreads and mark it as “To Read”. If I do not already own the book, I also add it to my “Library” shelf. Now anytime I am looking for a new book to read with the boys or if I am headed to the library (or at the library!), I can quickly scan through the books and be reminded of a book I was interested in.
Many of my friends are on Goodreads as well. I enjoy seeing what they are reading and reading their reviews. I have found many a good book through a friend. Kids can use and enjoy Goodreads as well to track their own reading progress, post reviews and explore the world of books. Scanning the books using the app can also be a fun incentive.
For those who might prefer a less “commercial” product (Goodreads was recently bought by Amazon), similar functionality can be found on LibraryThing. I like a lot about LibraryThing, but found that the social sharing aspects were not as robust and there is no associated app (though you can purchase a bar code scanner to use on your computer). The Goodreads app is available for both iOS (for Apple devices) and Android.
Other Book/Reading Apps
Nook, Kindle, iBooks
Nook, Kindle and iBooks are “e-reader” apps which allow you to read ebooks and pdfs on your tablet or phone (without having to actually own a Nook or a Kindle). Personally, I usually choose to read ebooks on an actual e-reader (in my case a Nook) because I prefer the “e-ink” (more like a traditional book) to reading on a tablet screen (backlit, more like a computer screen). However, using the Kindle app has allowed me to take advantage of good deals on ebooks through Amazon without needing to purchase a second ereader.
I like iBooks for reading independently produced ebooks and pdfs and use this for many homeschool curriculum ebooks such as those from Brave Writer and Math on the Level. With more and more curriculum providers offering their books as downloadable files, I appreciate being able to access these resources on my tablet which unties me from my computer and gives me more freedom.
Instapaper, Readability and Pocket
Instapaper, Readability and Pocket are similar apps that can be used to clip articles from the web to read later. Personally I find that I prefer to read articles on my tablet as opposed to my computer and these apps clip the articles and format them in a very reading-friendly way, including only the text and photos of the article (leaving out any ads or other distracting aspects of the particular website). By using these apps, I can save articles for when I have time to read them without having to leave tons of tabs open in my browser or loose track of them in my bookmarks. I have also used them to save articles for my kids to read.
Audible is a subscription service for purchasing and downloading audiobooks at a discount. As an audiobook loving family, we have bought many audiobooks and use the app to easily download and listen to books where ever we want.
Overdrive is the service used by many libraries for managing their audiobook and ebook resources. The Overdrive app is very useful for taking advantage of those services.
Bookmark is my favorite audiobook apps. It allows you to listen to both audiobooks and podcasts and gives you very easy controls for navigating. I wrote a review of Bookmark on my blog a few years ago and Bookmark is still easily my most utilized audiobook app.
Bookmark is only available for iOS.
I hope this gets you started on your way to finding some of the fantastic apps that are out there. I will be back over the next few months to review some more of my favorites. In the meantime, feel free to share some of your favorite apps in the comment section!
Read the previous post in this series: Resources for Finding Apps for Homeschooling
Stephanie Elms is constantly trying to find that elusive state of balance in her life while enjoying her two energetic yet vastly different boys. You can read about their ongoing exploits on her blog, Throwing Marshmallows. Stephanie also volunteers as a member of the VaHomeschoolers Board of Directors and is the VaHomeschoolers website administrator.