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.
Living literature is the foundation of a Charlotte Mason education and can include fiction, biography, nature lore, historical fiction and even non-fiction.
Living books are written using rich language that ignites the imagination and transports the reader into a character’s experience. There are vintage, classic and modern living books in the fiction category. Consuming quality literature directly improves writing, grammar and spelling skills. Meaningful literature guides readers towards integrity and empathy.
A biography includes chronological details and important events. A living biography includes details, events and the ideas of the person.
Nature lore is written by a naturalist or an expert in a field of study. The facts and details are woven into a good story. Here are some examples of nature lore living books:
- Among the People, by Clara Dillingham Pierson
- Archimedes and the Door of Science, by Jeanne Bendick
- Eyes and No Eyes, by Arabella Buckley
- The Secret of Everyday Things, by Jean Henri Fabre
- The Storybook of Science, by Jean Henri Fabre
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 to loan. 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!
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, they 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.
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