Living books are a cornerstone of the Charlotte Mason Method and play a crucial role in fostering a love of learning and developing a child’s imagination. Unlike dry textbooks that convey just information, living books are well-written, engaging, and rich in literary and narrative qualities. They have the power to captivate readers, transport them to different times and places, and ignite their curiosity.
Living Books in Your Homeschool
Although as a family we didn’t follow Charlotte Mason exclusively instead we took the concepts that resonated with us as a family and incorporated them into our routines and rhythms. Living books is an area that I am passionate about, even as a teacher they were something that I felt was important for kids to encounter recommending books outside of the textbooks we were required to use for students to read. In our home educating journey they provided a critical component to a day with reading aloud and also independent reading.
Charlotte Mason was very particular about what living books were there were certain qualities to them so here they are:
Qualities of Living Books
Living books are written in a narrative style that draws readers into the story, making the subject matter come alive. They often feature relatable characters, vivid descriptions, and compelling plots that grab the reader’s attention and sustain their interest.
Although on many of our book lists that I share here on Rainy Day Homeschooling, I include non-fiction books these are more of a reference book to dip into and learn more about a specific area. It’s the stories that have always been integral to our day. From picture books to classical literature.
Living books evoke emotions, allowing readers to form connections with the characters and the ideas presented. This emotional engagement helps children develop empathy, emotional intelligence, and a deeper understanding of human experiences.
This is also why incorporating reading aloud into your daily routine is so important. It allows you as a parent to take time to talk about these emotions and explore them more in-depth with your kids.
Rich Vocabulary and Descriptive Language
These books use rich and diverse vocabulary as well as fantastic descriptive language. You expose your children to a broad vocabulary and help them develop strong verbal and written communication skills. They introduce children to well-crafted sentences, figurative language, and varied writing styles, fostering a love for language and literature.
Through reading well-written books I felt that we were able to discuss and listen to many of the grammatical areas that would otherwise be covered in a dry and tedious manner.
Ideas and Values
Living books are often written by authors who have a deep passion for their subject. They present ideas, moral dilemmas, and ethical questions, encouraging readers to think critically, analyze situations, and form their own opinions. These books can instil virtues, values, and principles in children, helping shape their character and worldview.
When looking for Living Books especially when focusing on areas of the world pick literature from those cultures and ethnicity. Reading from people’s own perspectives is one of the best ways to expand your child’s and your horizons about how others think, live and their values.
Importance in the Charlotte Mason Method
Living books are considered a vital educational tool in the Charlotte Mason Method for several reasons:
Connection to the Real World
By using living books, children connect with real experiences, stories, and ideas, rather than relying solely on abstract concepts. This fosters a more holistic and meaningful understanding for your child.
Cultivation of Imagination
They spark imagination and creativity. They transport children to different worlds, historical periods, or cultures, allowing them to experience and envision life beyond their own immediate surroundings.
Love of Learning
Reading living books cultivates a love of learning. Through enjoyable and immersive reading experiences, children develop a genuine interest in various subjects, fueling their curiosity and creating a lifelong thirst for knowledge.
Language and Comprehension Skills
Living books expose children to well-written and expressive language, enhancing their vocabulary, reading comprehension, and communication abilities. They also encourage children to engage in narrations, where they retell or summarize what they have read, improving their comprehension and critical thinking skills. Read all about Narrative and Narration with our guide to Charlotte Mason Method Narration in Homeschooling.
Even if you don’t fully embrace the Charlotte Mason Method in your homeschool, Living Books can easily be incorporated and will allow your children to engage with quality literature, fostering a love for reading, deepening their understanding of the world, and nurturing their intellectual and emotional growth.