I was a fan of living books before I even knew what they were.
…a child at a garage sale, flipping through yellowed pages for a treasure.
…a school girl in my history books, craving the real story behind the dates.
…a college kid, unable to resell my books because they were just too good (One of the best parts of a being a writing major is that I was required to read a LOT of great writing).
Now as an adult – a wife, a mom, a homeschooler, I stare at my bookshelf in my room; a dusty collection of words I cannot bear to part with.
So I alphabetized them.
I categorized them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, parenting, and so on…
And the books breathed new life.
For the first time, I held a coffee table display book and realized it was a gorgeous living book that had been cast off to the bargain section of a book store I worked at in high school. It’s now a book I can use in the future for homeschool.
And there are so many more.
So many that shaped my thoughts, that cry to be re-read – now that my perspective on life has some legs to it.
So many that will be repurposed in our homeschool – in my children’s lives.
If you don’t have a good understanding of what a living book is from that description, the only other thing I can tell you is that you’ll know a living book because, well…
it speaks to you.
A living book reaches a part of your soul and changes your life. Living books are the reason we attach to fictional characters as if they’re real people. Living books transport us through space and time allowing us to befriend an ancient Egyptian, thrill at the size of a dinosaur, and sail the ocean with a pirate.
“As I’ve said before, we know that a great storehouse of thought exists that holds all the great ideas and concepts that have ever moved and changed the world. More than anything else, we’re eager to give the child the key to this wonderful storehouse. Some people claim that the education of our day isn’t producing reading people. We’re determined that children should love books. That’s why we don’t come between the book and the child. We read him books like Tanglewood Tales, and, when he’s older, Plutarch’s Lives, not trying to break them up or water them down, but leaving the child’s mind to deal with the material in its own way as best it can.”
– Charlotte Mason, Volume 2, School Education, pg 231-232
Charlotte Mason taught with living books. She felt that a personal biography gave a better account of a time period or event than a dry history book full of dates. She advised that we get out of the way of our child’s learning – children are already born with a lust for learning and it’s our job to provide the right materials.
The Autism Angle
Never underestimate your child’s mind. Charlotte Mason urged us to use the unabridged version of books to give children the richest, fullest language available. Even if your child does not have strong comprehension skills yet, let him feast on the language. Spoon feed him slowly at first with some of the easier to understand unabridged books like Classical Winnie-the-Pooh as well as poetry anthologies like this one by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton.
Fill your library with living books from the time your child is born. My favorite board books for Little Miss are from the BabyLit Collection. Charlotte Mason often made this analogy: books are like food. You would never feed your children junk food regularly – it might be a special treat, but on average you’d have fresh produce and quality food available at all times. If a child is accustomed to eating only junk food, the sweetest strawberry would not appeal to him.
It’s the same with books.
Work hard to fill your home with living books and your children will end up craving them.