What is a Living Book?

charlotte mason classical education homeschool living books


I remember when I first typed this question into a google search. We had just just taken my son out of public school, and I was trying to find my rhythm as a homeschooling mother. I asked myself, "What kind of person do I want him to be 10 years from now? How am I going to guide him there?". I stumbled across this term in my many searches. It was the place where the classical education of the Well Trained Mind met Charlotte Mason. It was the notion that they both celebrated, and as a homeschooling mother I had found myself between them. The idea of referring to literature as "living" was intriguing when you are trying to cultivate a child's - no a boy's interest in a subject. 

Charlotte Mason coined this term in her writings. She wrote, “Children must have the best books - One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books. The best is not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough. And if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child’s intellectual life.” Vol. 1, Chapter 25

So that begs the question, "What are Living Books?" 

Living books are any publication that engages the reader and stimulates his or her curiosity in a subject. These types of books are typically written in a conversational or narrative style by an author who is an authority or well versed in the subject. The author generally has an infectious enthusiasm for the topic that excites the reader which aids in both memory and retention.   

"Living books" are books that come alive in the mind and heart of the reader. They are books that contain a rich vocabulary that can be equally enjoyed by young and old. This is what makes these books so valuable in the homeschooling community. Why read a dry boring textbook, that presents hard facts to memorize, when you can share a timeless stimulating lesson with your whole family? These books are meant to be shared. They make for the best read-alouds and encourage stimulating conversations.

You will find living books in every subject and every time period - But don't take my word for it. Read a page out of each book you consider, and test it out, to see if it lives for you. 


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