What Are Living Books? A lot of people ask, “What is a living book? ” because they are curious to know what the word ‘living’ means in the context of a lifeless book. Now, we all know that books are nothing but paper and cardboard, put together with glue or with stitching. However, we also know that the mind that creates books is ‘alive’, with the potent ideas that move, breathe and have a life of their own. So, what distinguishes a typical textbook from a living book is the ‘life’ that the writer infuses in these books, with the use of “imagination, originality and the human touch”. (Karen Andreola, The Charlotte Mason Method, Practical Homeschooling) The term ‘living books’ is used for books usually written in the narrative or story form that makes the subject come ‘alive’ in the mind of the reader. Advocated for children in the 1800s by a pioneering woman educator named Charlotte Mason, who coined the term ‘living books’, the use of living books was intended to form strong mental connections between the reader and the subject. Even though Charlotte Mason did not provide a list of the living books for reference, she left us with a vivid description of the kind of books that children should read, which provides us with clues as to what she meant by ‘living books’. In Parents and children, Charlotte Mason writes, “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. …; and we shall train a race of readers who will demand literature—that is, the fit and beautiful expression of inspiring ideas and pictures of life”.
What Makes Living Books Interesting For Children? Living books are usually in a narrative or story form, even when the subject is non-fictional. The author presents the facts as a part of the story line, thus making them interesting and engaging for the reader. What is essential in living books is the literary content of these books, be it books on history, geography, religion or science. The living books contain inspiring ideas, tales and pictures that have a great impact on the impressionable minds of children. The primary motive of a living book is to instill delight in the mind of the reader, a pleasure that comes from receiving knowledge in the form of beautiful expressions and worthy ideas. An example of a living book is the “Little House on the Prairie” series that employs the essential ingredients of a living book: Worthy thoughts, beautifully language and inspiring stories or pictures that stir emotions and spark vivid imagery in the mind of the reader. Living Books Are Better Tools Of Learning In a number of ways, therefore, living books are better tools of learning for children when compared to traditional textbooks. They hold the interest of the children far better than do the traditional textbooks. Since living books help children form a mental imagery about the subjects, they help children retain knowledge in their minds. Also, the interesting style of rendition of the living books makes them more engaging for children than typical textbooks.