Living Books

Some Thoughts on Living Books

…we owe it to every child to put him in communication with great minds that he may get at great thoughts; with the minds, that is, of those who have left us great works; and the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books.
Charlotte Mason, An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education, page 12

“Education,” said Lord Haldane, some time ago, “is a matter of the spirit,”…No one knoweth the things of a man but the spirit of a man which is in him; therefore, there is no education but self-education, and as soon as a young child begins his education he does so as a student. Our business is to give him mind-stuff, and both quality and quantity are essential…for the best thought the world possesses is stored in books; we must open books to children, the best books; our own concern is abundant provision and orderly serving.
Ibid., 26

Thought, we know, breeds thought; it is as vital thought touches our minds that our ideas are vitalized, and out of our ideas comes our conduct of life…The direct and immediate impact of great minds upon his own mind is necessary to the education of a child…if the [book] list be short, the scholar will not get enough mind-stuff; if the books are not various, his will not be an all-round development; if they are not original, but compiled at second hand, he will find no material in them for his intellectual growth. Again, if they are too easy and too direct, if they tell him straight away what he is to think, he will read, but he will not appropriate…We have the highest authority for the indirect method of teaching proper to literature, and especially to poetry. The parables of Christ remain dark sayings; but what is there more precious in the world’s store of knowledge?”
Ibid., 303-304

Every scholar of six years old and upwards should study with ‘delight’ his own, living, books on every subject in a pretty wide curriculum. Children between six and eight must for the most part have their books read to them.
Charlotte Mason, School Education, page 214

One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are 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.
Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children, page 279

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:6 – 8

…And yes, God Himself chose the medium of a Book to share the truth of His love and grace for each of us. God used that one Book to transform minds and lives of people all throughout history!…So…shall whole, living books be the means by which we challenge our children to become more thoughtful, discerning, and better equipped for God’s purpose?…They give a taste for the beautiful and excellent in life!! They enrich the mind, heart, and character! They have the power to form and restore the character to its full, productive capacity! They deal with ideals, principles, and purposes! They build enthusiasm for learning! They build family relationships…a unity of ideals and character and experiences! They help capture your family’s opportunities for learning together!…Whole, Living Books develop the person. They help us to make more informed and discerning stands for God! They give a “mental trip” into the author’s mind…their feelings, thoughts, words, experiences so that we become more aware of the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others! They expand the horizons of the mind! Whole books take you to far away places. They take you into the minds of others. Plus, you get to have experiences without having to have each and every situation as your own personal experience! Of course, we still must learn many things from our own life, but as we do whole books are there to communicate ministry to the soul!
They comfort us in midst of weary times. They excite us in the midst of the dreariness of our lives. They inspire us when we lack direction. They feed our hungry mind with ideas so we do not suffer from mental starvation! Whole books ennoble us toward what is true…honest…just…pure…lovely…of good report…virtuous…and praiseworthy!
Cindy Rushton, Language Arts…the Easy Way!, pages 15, 19, 20


Characteristics of a Living Book

from Maryellen St. Cyr, When Children Love to Learn, pages 125-126

  • Books are to be well written, not dependent upon illustrations for the story to unfold (Ourselves, Part II, p. 11).
  • Books must contain literary language to make a direct appeal to the mind, to stir the imagination, and hold the child’s interest (A Philosophy of Education, p. 248).
  • Books must be enjoyed. The ideas they hold must make the sudden delightful impact on the mind, cause the intellectual stir that marks the inception of an idea (School Education, p. 178).
  • Books are not to be too easy or too direct. If they tell the reader straightway what to think, he will read but not appropriate the information (A Philosophy of Education, p. 303).
  • Good books are to be narrated. The child is able to recall the ordered sequence with graphic details (School Education, pp. 179-180).


Living Books vs. Text Books

from Clay & Sally Clarkson, Educating the WholeHearted Child: a Handbook for Christian Home Education, p. 80

  • Written by a single author, a real and knowable person vs. written by various authors or contributors, usually unknown
  • Literary expression to the author’s own ideas and love of the subject vs. non-literary expression of collected facts & information
  • Personal in tone and feel. Touches the heart and emotions as well as the intellect vs. impersonal, touches only the intellect
  • Author addresses the reader as an intelligent and capable thinker vs. looks down on the reader as one needing to be instructed
  • Ideas are presented creatively in a way that stimulates the imagination vs. facts are presented without creativity in a way that deadens the imagination


Books About Living Books/Book Lists

You don’t need all of these! The first two I carry with me when I hunt for used books. The last two are helpful for high school. Be sure to visit Valerie’s Living Books at for lots of wonderful, free book lists; author biographies; home library info; etc.

  • Who Should We Then Read?, vol. 1 and vol. 2 by Jan Bloom, . Wonderful author bios and helpful lists for book collectors.
  • The Never-Ending Rushton Reading List by Cindy Rushton,
  • TruthQuest History series by Michelle Miller, This is history from a Biblical worldview as well as an excellent list of books and films showing grade interest level, K – 12. Eliminates the need for other lists for history.
  • All Through the Ages by Christine Miller, Book lists for grades 1-12 of chronological history, geography, science and math, art and music, and great books of Christian tradition (great discussion, literature, poetry, drama).
  • Let the Authors Speak: A Guide to Worthy Books Based on Historical Setting by Carolyn Hatcher
  • Turning Back the Pages of Time: A Guide to American History Through Literature compiled by Kathy Keller
  • Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families by Sarah Clarkson. Homeschooled graduate tells of her childhood journey with living books, very inspiring! Good lists of children’s classics; chronological history and bios; poetry; music, art, and nature; picture books; etc.
  • Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children’s Literature by Elizabeth Wilson
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life by Gladys Hunt
  • The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
  • How to Grow a Young Reader: Books from Every Age for Readers of Every Age by Kathryn Lindskoog & Ranelda Mack Hunsicker
  • How to Raise a Reader: You Can Help Your Child Read Well and Enjoy It More by Elaine K. McEwan
  • Books that Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories by Kilpatrick, Wolfe, & Wolfe
  • A Family Program for Reading Aloud by Rosalie Slater
  • Great Books of the Christian Tradition and Other Books Which Have Shaped Our World by Terry W. Glaspey
  • Invitation to the Classics: A Guide to Books You’ve Always Wanted to Read edited by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness

Compiled by Beth S., October 2005, January 2010


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