Free Literature to Inspire and Inform
Be enthralled, entranced, amused, heartbroken, enraged and challenged with this selection of free web-based visual stories for students of all ages. Digital stories offer literary engagement and enjoyment and also contribute to curriculum delivery – harness the power of digital and interactive literature to engage, teach and challenge students in an online environment.
Dr Jennie Bales – Adjunct Lecturer, Charles Sturt University
- teacher librarian for 30+ years
- Charles Sturt University – Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) adjunct lecturer.
- INT Books – the Tasmanian rep offering curriculum resource solutions and some alternative fiction
- CBCA Tasmania social media administrator
I wish to acknowledge the contributions of Charles Sturt University MEd (TL) students enrolled in ETL402 Literature Across the Curriculum. Their enthusiasm and success in identifying a range of powerful digital stories provided the initial inspiration and some content for this presentation.
Written by Nam Le, adapted by Matt Huynh. An interactive graphic novel about escape after the Vietnam War. Based on the story by Nam Le, adapted by Matt Huynh. Find out more about:
Matt Huynh’s work.
Humanities and Social Sciences– Y10 & SSC – Vietnam War
English – Listening, reading and viewing, Language features; Visual features and text structures
CCP: Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia
GC: Intercultural Understanding, Ethical Understanding Exploring values, rights and responsibilities
This interactive digital story presents the daily life of the inhabitants in the Domiz refugee camp in northern Iraq. A hand drawn map provides four routes to navigate the camp to explore different stories and outcomes. Each route has black and white pen drawings as a backdrop interspersed with photos, video, text, sounds and personal stories. This contemporary exploration of a current global crisis through story telling garners both an emotional and intellectual response in the viewer.
Clouds Over Sidra
The Zaatari Refugee Camp is home to 130,000 Syrians fleeing violence and war. Children make up half the camp’s population. This is the story of Sidra, a 12-year old girl who has spent the last 18 months in Zaatari. This personal story immerses the reader into Sidra’s world, building empathy for the plight of displaced children and the aftermath of war.
For viewing VR: There are 4 basic options for viewing virtual reality (VR) content today: An immersive VR headset; a simple VR viewer that uses a mobile phone; a mobile phone on its own; or a web video player. This virtual reality (VR) site requires a robust internet connection.
Blue is a superbly illustrated tale depicting the racism and gang hatreds that can fester in our own backyard. Stimulated by the Cronulla riots in 2005, author Pat Grant presents the violence and underpinning social issues that fermented and then erupted on that day in a graphic novel format to be read in either print or online. The content targets a mature student audience.
Excellent support for Blue can be sourced from the SBS documentary Cronulla Riots: The Day the Shocked the Nation and the accompanying teacher notes.
Seeking Refuge – BBC
A short film based on one child’s’s real-life experience in seeking asylum. Seeking Refuge recounts the physical journey but also to the emotional journey. The films deal with issues such as insecurity, isolation, terror, imprisonment and powerlessness.
If the World Were a Village
Informed by the book published by CitizenKid in 2010, this clip presents comparative statistics in a story format. The world’s population of 6.9 billion shrinks down to a village of 100. In doing so, the startling realities of the global village become instantly visible. By exploring the lives of the 100 villagers, children will discover that life in other parts of the world is often very different from their own. Teachers notes are available.
An interesting comparative text on the same theme but without a story component, GOOD Data present more recent statistics in an infographic format. Preview as this version includes advertising at the start.
If the World were 100 People
The Animals Saved the Planet
A series of short, engaging clips that feature animals in their natural habitats demonstrating how our actions can make a difference on a range of environmental issues. Highly suitable for early childhood students to reflect on the messages and to start making individual choices for sustainable practice. Older students could use this format as inspiration for producing their own environmental messages.
This interactive game immerses players into an exploration of traditional land and culture with strong links to sustainability. The WilderQuest program includes a website, an iPad App and links to Ranger tours and activities in national parks across NSW. It provides opportunities for families to experience nature and Aboriginal culture, online, in classrooms, at events and in National Parks. It has been most recently updated to include a Teacher portal: ‘WilderQuest Learning’ with support from the Environmental Trust and partners.
Ethics, Decision Making & Thinking
A role playing game presented as a story in a comic book style to introduce Braxos, a planet settled in the future. Each chapter presents a problem between settlers (player cards) and the way they interact with the environment and each other. The captain has the task of collecting the facts to help in a fair and impartial adjudication to resolve the issue. A range of views from settlers are provided via the cards (text and audio), to be sorted into facts, opinions and solutions. These are considered in regard to their impact on the community and decisions are made. A login is available to save progress. Ideally suited for game play in the secondary classroom but accessible to senior primary students with problem solving experience and independent literacy skills.
There are currently four episodes dealing with different dilemmas. Relevance addresses Australian Curriculum content:
* Critical and creative thinking
* Personal and Social Capability
* Ethical Understanding
+ relevance to English, Digital literacy and Digital Citizenship
A young girl helps a tiny boy to fly home before it’s too late! A delightful animated film on resilience, determination and risk taking and embracing STEAM problem solving.
Ferdinand the Bull – Munro Leaf
This Walt Disney 1938 retelling of Ferdinand delightfully captures the pacifist nature of this friendly bull and how he stays true to his beliefs when forced into the bull ring. Bull fighting at the time was accepted practice so there is scope here for older students to consider changing perspectives and the ethical use of animals for sport. With the release of Ferdinand by 20th Century Fox, and combined with the picture book, this provides an excellent comparative media study between text and contemporary and original interpretations of the picture book.
What do you do with an Idea? – Kobi Yamada & Mae Besom
This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child’s confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens. This visual retelling of the story is for anyone, at any age, who’s ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult.
History – Australian (chronological)
The Voyage to Van Diemen’s Land – Australian Maritime Museum with ABC Splash
An interactive game focusing in convict voyages to Australia. “The year is 1830. You’re the Surgeon Superintendent aboard a convict vessel transporting its human cargo from Britain to the far reaches of the known world – Van Diemen’s Land. You’re charged with delivering several hundred convicts to the colony in the shortest time with minimum loss of life. This is the way to make money and further your reputation and position. Are you up to the task?”
Lives and Stories of Colonial Women
Presented by ABC Splash and prepared by the National Portrait Gallery, this resource presents the stories of five different colonial women: Trukanini, Theresa Sutcliffe Mort, Mary Windeyer, Caroline Chisholm and Lola Montez. Hear their stories and look at their portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, Australia.
From the My Place digital collection Gold Rush is an interactive game where players take on a child persona who needs to make decisions to survive and succeed on the goldfields. The supporting narrative makes game playing like taking part in an historical story.
Simpson and his Donkey – Frane Lessac
This clip presents the text and illustrations of the Lessac’s book + original source photographs with the sound track of Bogle’s ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ 0verlaid – an interesting compilation of multiple sources to present a different interpretation of the text. Useful as a comparison with the previous clip – same song, but different presentation techniques.
Gallipoli – The First Day (ABC production)
The Olden Days
Produced by the National Film Board 1947. This film provides an overview of Australia’s primary and secondary education system in the late 1940s. It looks at the various types of schools in the city and the outback and follows one girl from primary to high school. The film was intended primarily for English migrants who proposed to settle in Australia.
History – Ancient
Pyramid Builder (Ancient Egypt)
An interactive game presented as a story where the player is provided with information to make decisions to ensure that a pyramid is successfully built. Problem solving and critical thinking are required to complete the challenge successfully.
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures
Dust Echoes is a series of twelve beautifully animated dreamtime stories from Central Arnhem Land, telling stories of love, loyalty, duty to country and aboriginal custom and law.
Teacher’s Resources: Study Guides – Middle years.
CCP: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures
Dreamtime Stories – Biladurang the Platypus
Dreamtime Story Animation “Biladurang The Platypus” for the Marambul Yuganha Exhibition at the Griffith campus of TAFE NSW Riverina Institute 2011.
The Buyungurra who didn’t listen
This is a traditional story told by Bianca McNeair that her mother told her when she was growing up. Bianca uses words from the Malgana language, which is spoken in the area around Shark Bay in Western Australia.
An ABC Splash resource that includes the transcript, teachers notes and curriculum connections.
Dhiiyaan – Elaine Russell
A vivid recount by the author, Dhiiyaan (Family) provides a comparison between Russell’s early life and that of her grandson.
Indigenous Stories about Family
This collection of digitised stories on the Culture Victoria website provide a window into past and present indigenous culture in Victorian communities with a focus on the importance of family.
Righting Wrongs in the 1967 Referendum – ABC Splash
This information resource includes digitised primary sources relating to this significant step towards Indigenous rights in Australia. Chapter 3 includes a powerful personal story told by Faith Bandler, a civil rights activist in the 1960s.
Health & Well Being
How the Heart Actually Pumps Blood – Edmond Hui
Literary non-fiction: For most of history, scientists weren’t quite sure why our hearts were beating or even what purpose they served. Eventually, we realized that these thumping organs serve the vital task of pumping clean blood throughout the body. But how? Edmond Hui investigates how it all works by taking a closer look at the heart’s highly efficient ventricle system. This is one of a series of that explores the workings of the human body – search under Edmond Hui.
Science & Design
If I Built a House – Chris Van Dusen
Jack is designing the house of his dreams, complete with a racetrack, flying room, and gigantic slide. Inspiration for young inventors to imagine their own fantastical designs.
The Most Magnificent Thing – Ashley Spires
A little girl and her canine assistant set out to make the most magnificent thing. But after much hard work, the end result is not what the girl had in mind. Frustrated, she quits. Her assistant suggests a long walk, and as they walk, it slowly becomes clear what the girl needs to do to succeed.
Rosie Revere, Engineer – Andrea Beatty & David Roberts
Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she’s a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer. When her Great, Great Aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions her one unfinished goal–to fly–Rosie sets to work building a contraption to make her aunt’s dream come true.
Handa’s Surprise & Handa’s Hen – Eileen Brown
For older students, these two simple videos could provide a springboard into work on racial stereotyping and be paired and compared with maturer portrayals in works such as Pat Grant’s Blue (above).
The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
This delightful rendition is read by the man himself. See Eric Carle, the author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, reading this classic picture book out loud. An exclusive glimpse of this incredible book and author.
Perfect Square – Michael Hall
A simple story about a square that is perfectly happy with its four equal sides and four perfect corners. But then, on Monday, the square was cut into pieces and poked full of holes and on each successive day of the week it is subjected to further indignities. Each resulting in a creative rearrangement. This is terrific story to introduce geometrical shapes, the days of the week and torn tissue collage art. This animated version is supported by music from the Minnesota Orchestra and is presented here for educational use only.
English: Alphabet Books & Letters
General: 3D, perspective, point of view, creative arts, problem solving, great for setting challenges, exploring area, moveable parts, popup creations.
High concept digital alphabet book by de Vicq de Cumpitch. Interactive, animated and very clever! Perfect accompaniment to Spellbound by Maree Coote
Written by Kes Gray, illustrated by Jim Field.
A great fun way to introduce a range of phonetic sounds not just ‘og’!
Quick Quack Quentin
Written by Kes Gray, illustrated by Jim Field.
Quentin has lost the ‘a’ in his “quack”. He visits the farm and a succession of animals who all offer him one of their vowels – to no avail. How can he get is quack back?
English: Postmodern Stories
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Written by William Joyce.
Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories. He loved books. But every story has its upsets…Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds. But the power of story will save the day.
Morris Lessmore website
English – Y6 : Literacy – Texts in context, Y7: Literature – Responding to literature comparative text forms – print, film, app
Cross-curricula teacher’s resources:
Teaching Ideas – includes interview with Joyce (primary)
Simon & Schuster Publisher’s guide
Goodnight iPad – Ann Droyd
This clever parody of the original 1947 Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown explores the nighttime family rituals in a technologically obsessed family.
If You Give a Mouse an iPhone – Anne Droyd
If you give in to temptation and give a bored little mouse your iPhone, even for ten minutes, he’s probably going to beam to some faraway place beyond time, space, and the sound of your pleading voice. And if he’s that far gone, he won’t have any idea what’s going on around him, and he might end up missing out on all the real fun.
A delightful new commentary on the perils of our tech-obsessed lives and a fully charged romp for readers of all ages. Classroom connection.
The Happy Duckling
The Happy Duckling is an animated adventure following the antics of a
reluctant young boy and the relentlessly happy duck who trails him. It’s set in a delightful and surprising pop-up book world where anything can happen.
The Three Little Pigs – news report
An extremely clever news reportage of the killing of the wolf by the pigs – that shows different points of view and highlights the fickle nature of the audiences easily swayed by media reporting.
Voices in the Park – Anthony Browne
Anthony Browne introduces and tells the story with the help of actors, live photography, page shots and a background score from the Adriamus Ensemble. A unique multiple presentation of this classic tale told from four perspectives.
The Kingston University presents an interactive version of the story as well as a link to the video above. Interactive Voices in the Park.
The Day the Crayons Quit – Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers
An hilarious take on letter writing, colours and colouring in when each crayon writes to their owner Duncan with a complaint. Good too, for problem solving and predicting the outcome.
Find out more about this author/illustrator team on CrayonsPictureBooks, with teachers resources for further inspiration.
The Day the Crayons Came Home
These crayons are hard to please – postcards from near and far express the disappointments and challenges Duncan’s crayons have to suffer through neglect.
The Moth’s Serenade – Paul Fleischman
Read by the author, Paul Fleischman and his wife, this provides and excellent example of reading with two vocies. The poem is taken from his 2025 Newbery Award winning collection Joyful Noise.
The Catnap: A Poem for Two Voices – Renee La Tulippe
Written and read by Renee La Tulippe with the help of a friend. Further information including the text and tips on shared poetry reading are on the No Water River website.
Jabberwocky – Lewis Carroll
There are many retellings of this classic poem. Here are two very different recitations to compare, contrast and hopefully inspire students to develop their own interpretation.
Neil Gaiman recites Jabberwocky.
Renee La Tulippe recites Jabberwocky.
Jabberwocky read by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, with illustrations.
The Raven – Edgar Allen Poe
Read by Christopher Lee.
English: Picture Book Classics
The Very Busy Spider – Eric Carle
The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson
Are You My Mother? – P. D. Eastman
There’s an Alligator Under my Bed
– Mercer Meyer
Narrated by the author.
Harry the Dirty Dog – Gene Zion & Margaret Bloy Graham
Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
No David – David Shannon
The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein
Art’s Supplies – Chris Tougas
This animation of the very clever picture book of the same name, captures the jokes and puns of the various media – crayons, pencils paints and more – as they prepare for a party. Read and view as an entertaining story, to explore art mediums, to examine humour in a text and just for the fun of it.
La Linea Interactive – Patrick Boivin
A tribute to the popular Italian animated series La Linea, this is a great use of the choose-your-own format. It is also an excellent example of animated line drawings to tell a story.
Ink Story: Speed Painting – David Bayo
As the storyteller scribes and narrates his story, the artist, with ink and water provides a visual representation.
The Tiger and the Bird – David Bayo
Will the tiger catch the bird? A wordless story depicted in a series of ink renditions a hunt.
Festivals & Celebrations
Mog’s Christmas Calamity
A digital animation based on the original story by Judith Kerr. This production was created by Sainsbury (UK company) to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. Of interest – a supporting ‘behind the scenes‘ video with Judith Kerr and others involved in making the clip.
Coming Home – Michael Morporgo
Michael Morpurgo reads his book Coming Home, the story of a courageous robin undertaking an epic journey home to Britain, where a young girl eagerly awaits his annual return.
Google Lit Trips
Google Lit Trips are downloadable files that mark the journeys of characters from famous literature on the surface of Google Earth. Along the way, there will be placemarkers with pop-up windows that present “just in time” resources including relevant media, thought-provoking discussion starters, and links to supplementary information about “real world” references in that portion of the story. Useful overview at Edutopia: Google Lit Trips: Bringing Travel Tales to Life.
The Literacy Shed
The Literacy Shed is a British educational site with a rich and diverse categorised selection of short video clips. Some have suggestions for use by teachers and work samples completed by students following use of a resource as a stimulus. Some are challenging, futuristic, thought-provoking … for teens too. Check that the video downloads successfully before playing to class – some schools have issues.
The index provides an extensive list of films and their location within the site.
Teaching ideas for Soar and alternative source to the video.
Storyline Online is a website with a range of stories suitable mainly for
primary-aged children. The stories are read aloud by some well known
actors and are accompanied by a video of the book. Some books provide activities to accompany the book.
Story Bird is a place where children are inspired by artwork to create their own digital stories. Starting with a selected piece of artwork that interests them they then create a story. It is very simple to use. It is free to create a class account where each child then has their own username and password. Once complete, the books can be purchased for a price.
Students can also view their friends’ stories in the class and make comments. Its a great way to introduce online etiquette and safety too as they can also view books written by the public.