Home » Books & Reading » BOOKS ALIVE! OR: WHAT IS A LIVING BOOK?

BOOKS ALIVE! OR: WHAT IS A LIVING BOOK?

Guest Blogger and Home Educator Paula Baker shares some insight on the Charlotte Mason term “living book”.  Visit her website for more!

 What the blazes is a living book, anyway?  Does it have a heartbeat and eat bon-bons?  Does it ask for pocket money?  What makes a book ‘living’?  And why do I want to read one?

Those are precisely the questions that I had in late May, while attending the Florida Parents as Educators Association annual homeschool convention.  Lo and behold, I found the answers during a lecture entitled, Learning With Living Books, by Sonya Shafer, creator of the SimplyCharlotteMason.com website.

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fans of the Charlotte Mason Method of homeschooling utilize the teaching methods of Charlotte Mason, a British teacher who lived in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  She enthusiastically endorsed using ‘living books’ when instructing children in many subjects, as well as nature and art studies, and shorter lessons.

So just what IS a ‘living book’?  Here are Sonya’s defining characteristics of a living book, according to Charlotte Mason:

1.     It makes the subject come alive, so that you ‘see’ the action on the movie screen of your mind.
2.    It usually is written by one author who has a passion for the subject, containing a conversational tone and narrative, and can be fiction or non-fiction.
3.    It contains ideas, not just facts.  These ideas also teach life lessons.
4.    It will be well written.  And in the words of Charlotte Mason, “It will NOT be twaddle.”

So how, exactly, do you FIND a living book?  By reading it, of course!  However, we want to read it to discern if it has the 4 characteristics of a living book.  Let’s say that we find a book that looks promising to use in our homeschool curriculum or in addition to public or private school.  Now you’re going to give it the One Page Test.

Open the book to a page in the body of the book.  Now read it and think:

1.    Do I ‘see’ the story, like a movie playing in my mind?
2.    Does it have a conversational tone and narrative, drawing me in so that I want to read more?
3.    Is it just a dry recitation of the facts, or are there ideas that teach life lessons?
4.    Is it well written, and do I want to keep reading more than just 1 page?  Or is it ‘twaddle’?

For some examples of living books, please visit www.simplycharlottemason.com.  Make sure you check out their extensive Book Finder, where you can search for living books by the subject, age of the child, or grade level.  While you’re there, browse around for other great Charlotte Mason tips for teaching your child.  Enjoy books that come ALIVE!!!

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One thought on “BOOKS ALIVE! OR: WHAT IS A LIVING BOOK?

  1. Thanks so much for inviting me to be a guest blogger! The Charlotte Mason Method is such a lovely, gentle teaching method and great to use with multi-sensory techniques. We are really enjoying it. Have fun finding Living Books!

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