Digital Book Apps for Homeschooling

submitted by Stephanie Elms, Annandale

Digital book apps have been one of my favorite discoveries. Not to be confused with ebooks (which are simply the text of the book in electronic format), digital books truly take advantage of all that tablets have to offer. They usually include stunning graphics and animation and sometimes incorporate video, audio and other interactive elements. They can range from non-fiction to educational to literary stories where the animation helps bring the stories to life.

I found that many of the digital books were priced much higher than other apps, closer to the price of a print book. I’ve always found that it is well worth the cost and in some cases the digital book included more information and features than its companion print book. Most of the digital books that I have found have been only available for iOS…if anyone has any recommendations for digital books for androids, please let me know!

Shakespeare in Bits

Shakespeare in Bits is a wonderfully done app that incorporates audio and animation as well as an extensive amount of background information to make Shakespeare’s plays come alive. The main feature is a wonderfully acted, full cast, unabridged audio version of the play, complete with sound effects. This audio version would be enjoyable to listen to on its own, but they also include an animation of the action (which, while not quite as good as a live action production, does add to the overall experience)  on one half of the screen with a scrolling copy of the text of the play on the other half. The text lights up as the words are spoken, making it very easy to follow along. You can also click on unfamiliar words and they change to the more familiar word used today. There are also areas in the text where you can click to receive more background information or clarification about what is going on. The app also includes extensive background information, scene and character summaries as well as a fantastic visual character relationship map (which for some plays come in very handy!)  This is a very information rich app which is also visually appealing and engaging.

Current titles available (with more being planned): Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, MacBeth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Available for iOS/Mac/PC – free with in app purchases of $14.99 for each play.

iPoe & iPoe2

Beautifully illustrated versions of some of Edgar Allen Poe’s most well-known stories. The original text really comes alive when paired with the fantastically creepy illustrations and animations.

Available for iOS for $3.99.

The Voyage of Ulysses

You’ll find Ulysses waiting for you under the walls of the city of Troy, ready to launch the last attack together before finally setting sail for Ithaca! Again, beautiful illustrations and animations really help tell the story and engage the reader.

Available for iOS for $3.99.

Isopod: The Roly Poly Science Game

This truly unique app is best described as an integrated synthesis between arcade-quality gameplay and scientific encyclopedia, with the intention of inspiring a fascination with insects and their relationship to a variety of life science subjects.

Available for iOS for $1.99.

Bobo Explores Light

Discover an app that takes fundamental scientific concepts for school-age children and injects them with humor, astonishment and whimsy.

Available for iOS for $4.99

Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night

Explore the natural world of the only flying mammals—bats. Experience the first nonfiction book-app for iPad to use 3D software to create an immersive reading experience. For kids 5 and up.

Available for iOS for $2.99.

Wonders of Geology: An Aerial View of America’s Mountains

Wonders of Geology has all the features of a cool science app: animated diagrams, pinch and zoom, thumbnail navigation, maps, etc. But like a great book it also has an author, a man with a passion for his subject and a desire to share it with others. The app combines audio descriptions with wonderful visuals.

Available for iOS for $12.99.

The Elements: A Visual Exploration

The Elements: A Visual Exploration is not a reference app, it is a rich and engaging love story of the periodic table, told in words and pictures, and allowing you to experience the beauty and fascination of the building blocks of our universe in a way you’ve never seen before.

Available for iOS for $13.99.

The Legend of Momotaro

The famous legend of Momotaro is brought to life with beautiful handcrafted illustrations, animations and narration. Ten panoramic scenes tell the classic Japanese story of an old man and an old woman whose only wish is to have a child.

Available for iOS for $2.99.

Three Little Pigs and Secrets of a Popup Book

This book is bound to please children of all ages – the young ones will love the music and playing peek-a-boo with the characters, the older ones will enjoy the story, and older ones yet will be mesmerized by the intricate mechanical details exposed by cool xRay goggles.

Available for iOS for $2.99.


The Numberlys is a story app celebration of the early fantasy epics King Kong, Metropolis and Flash Gordon with a dollop of the Marx Brothers, a splash of the Fleischer Studios technicolor Superman and a little bit of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

Available for iOS for $5.99.

Explore Vincent

Explore Vincent tells the story of Vincent van Gogh, one of the world’s most misunderstood artists.

Available for iOS for $.99.


Read the previous posts in this series: 

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.


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