What Is A Living Book?


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For the children? They must grow up upon the best .  There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told.

Charlotte Mason

Whether you’re home educating using the Charlotte Mason method, classically schooling, unschooling or any of the other fabulous ways to educate your child you read books right? And you want ‘good’ books!

Charlotte Mason advocated using living books in every possible subject instead of dry, factual textbooks.

Living books will enliven your child’s imagination, wake up your love for reading aloud, help your whole family fall in love with literature and enrich your children’s education.

The use of living books around our dining rooms tables,  whilst snuggled up on the sofa and read under quilts with torch-light will fill our children’s minds with great thoughts and rich ideas which will benefit their heads and hearts for ever.

So how do we tell our truth from our twaddle?

Charlotte also used the word ‘twaddle’ to describe dry, factual, snooze worthy textbooks (which often have fabulous, colourful pictures on the front which means they’re the first ones our children pick up at the library ha!); so much of our leading them towards truth has to come from us; the educator and the mother. How are your storytelling tactics mama?

Do the two page test

A living book isn’t always obvious until we read the first one or two pages; I’ve even started using ‘living books’ that have been recommended by others or taken from a trusted list and we’ve fallen asleep over the first page – so we put it down! And that’s ok – what excites my children may not enthrall yours…just pop it on your shelf and try again another year!

Here are a few questions to ask during your two page test:

  1. Does it draw you in?
  2. Does it engage the emotions?
  3. Do you want to read on?
  4. Could you narrate from the section you’ve read?
  5. Is the writer passionate about what they are writing about?

You’ll pretty much know whether you’re holding a living beauty in your hand at this point!

If I’m committing to reading aloud a particular book to my children for the next few weeks then I need to be excited about its content too – I know I’ve found a winner if I’m excited to get into another chapter; it’s important (and permitted, wink) to find joy in your reading and educating.

A living book is full of beauty and truth, emotion and moral instruction; it engages the mind and the heart and begs us to read on, to read more and to go deeper than the words on the page.

A living book will guide, not force a child’s ability to learn to retain and to form a relationship with the ideas taken from its pages.

Living books are for life, lingering longingly on the shelves of your home and your heart.

The question is not, how much does the youth know when he has finished his education but how much does he care? –  Charlotte M. Mason

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