By Guest Blogger Valerie Barclay, Director of Communications for Redeemer School
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
What are living books? While Charlotte Mason coined this term, she did not provide an exhaustive list or set of rules for choosing living books. Instead, her writings on education are peppered with nuggets of helpful guidelines that can be used by teachers and schools, as well as by parents, as they guide and steer their children through school curricula and during their “free reading.”
Put simply, living books make a subject come alive to the reader. Some guidelines of which Ms. Mason spoke, and that we employ here at Redeemer School, are as follows:
~ Well-written, engaging story or subject matter (fiction or non-fiction)
~ Beautiful art work (particularly in picture books)
~ Originally written books (as opposed to abridged or rewritten versions)
~ Books that inspire ideas, creativity, and the imagination
Living books can be modern or classic. They can be written by a wide range of authors about almost any subject worthy of being included in a child and young person’s education. As teachers and parents, we can feel inspired and exhorted – not limited – by Ms. Mason’s high calling to seek out living books on the subjects that are presented in our curricula, or on the subjects that our children are interested in reading about for their own delight.
As a parent, where does one begin to seek out living books? Sources such as “Books Children Love (Revised Edition): A Guide to the Best Children’s Literature” (Elizabeth Wilson, 2002; foreward written by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay) and “Honey for a Child’s Heart” (Gladys Hunt, 2002) are “gold standards” among Charlotte Mason schools and well known by many here at Redeemer School!
In pulling out old resources and researching new ones for this article, I was delighted to discover a recently written children’s literature guide, which I wholeheartedly commend to you. “Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time” was written in 2016 by Jamie Martin, the wife of Englishman Steve Martin, CEO of Love146 (a Christian missions organization working to end child trafficking and exploitation around the world). Mrs. Martin is also the mum to three kids, including two internationally adopted children, homeschooling mom and blogger, and well acquainted with our dear friend Charlotte Mason. Her book “Give Your Child the World” shares Charlotte’s high standards for “putting the best stories in children’s hands” (p. 37), all while taking a particular focus on selections of literature from around the world – so that “our kids develop greater empathy and a heart for those God loves around the world” (p.48).
Award-winning children’s books are also good resources to cull from: the Caldecott and Newbery medals are probably the two most well-known. Online resources including amblesideonline.org and simplycharlottemason.com additionally offer a wealth of living book recommendations within their curricula which are both based on Charlotte Mason’s writings.
Redeemer School is a private Christian school utilizing the hands-on, childhood-honoring educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason. For more information about Redeemer School and to be added to their mailing list for Open House notices and the Doorpost newsletter, please click HERE.
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**Reprinted with permission from Redeemer School’s Doorpost newsletter Spring 2017 issue.
***Photo Credits: Redeemer School Publications Club, Ardmore Photography, and Alisha Raquel Photography