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Living Literature

What is Living Literature?

Children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough.

Charlotte Mason

Living literature is the foundation of a Charlotte Mason education. Living books can be fiction, non-fiction, biography, and nature lore. Living books are written using rich language that ignites the imagination and transports the reader into the character’s experience. 

Traits of Living Literature

  • Written in narrative form, often in a conversational tone
  • Well-written with rich language (not short, choppy sentences)
  • Well-told, igniting imagination
  • Touches the emotions of the reader
  • Includes ideas, not just facts
  • Subject matter comes alive 

Beware of twaddle! Twaddle is to literature what candy is to food. Our children do not need to look far to find twaddle. Children gravitate towards books that feature familiar characters from movies and television shows. Unfortunately, those types of books often include a flat storyline and are written with short, choppy sentences. Just as candy is not our primary nourishment, twaddle should not be our child’s primary literary experience.

Charlotte Mason is clear, “They must grow up upon the best. There must never be a period in their lives when they are allowed to read or listen to twaddle or reading-made-easy. There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told.” 

We have the opportunity to guide our children towards quality literature and provide them with a bookshelf filled with rich resources. We can train and inspire our children to choose living books. Consuming quality literature directly improves writing, grammar, and spelling.

Living literature can be found in a variety of places beyond your local library. Used book sales and garage sales can harbor literary treasures. Thriftbooks.com is an online thrift bookstore resource. If you know of someone that has a great home library, ask if you can borrow or swap books. Build up your own home library with your favorite living books. Some vintage living books that are out of print are available on the public domain, for FREE. Check out gutenberg.org and goodreads.com. There is a new interest in vintage living books and publishers are offering reprint versions. Many are worth owning!