How to Find Living Books

by Jimmie

Living books are a foundation of a Charlotte Mason homeschool, but how do you find living books? Once you find some potential books, how do you evaluate them?

This article was borne out of an email that a blog reader sent me. That homeschool mom said that she basically understood what made a living book "living," but she had no idea how to find these books. And sometimes even though she felt she understood, it was still hard to classify a book as living or twaddle.

Obviously, you are the best ultimate judge of books for your children, but to get you started in locating living books, start with the recommendations of other homeschool moms, librarians, and homeschool catalogs.

Locating Living Books

Books on the Shelf
Books on the Shelf

Check Homeschool Catalogs

Catalogs that cater to homeschoolers are filled with living books. You may not like every single choice, but overall the books they offer are sound options. Visit Homeschool Catalogs for links to dozens of request forms for catalogs to be delivered to your mailbox.

Curriculum that is literature based will be a treasure trove of book lists:

Read some of the books these catalogs include in their packages. If you like them, find out if there are more books in the series or by the same author. 

Living Books for Homeschool

Child Looking at Books
Child Looking at Books

Trusting the Advice of the Experts

Librarians, Book Awards, Reading Experts

Besides homeschool catalogs, you can look to educational experts for recommendations. Librarians and educators often have extensive book lists of classic, living books. There are also book awards that can offer possibilities.


If you have a good library system, simply ask your librarian for book recommendations for your children's ages. She probably has book lists, ready to hand out for inquiring parents.


Books About Books

The books listed below are all about choosing books for children. They are filled with book lists and summaries to help you choose. 

Books to Help You Choose Books

Books of Books
Honey for a Child's Heart
$14.0  $9.4
Books Children Love (Revised Edition)...
Only $14.99
Books That Build Character: A Guide t...
$13.79  $3.69
Enjoying a Living Book
Enjoying a Living Book

How to Evaluate Books

Assuming that you have already weeded out any possible twaddle, there are things to consider when choosing books for your children among living choices.

Difficulty of the Book

Children can understand more difficult books when those books are read to them. Is this book for you to read aloud, or is it for independent reading?

Emotional Content of the Book

Some books are too heart wrenching for sensitive children. Be on the lookout for books that portray animals being heart or children separated from their parents. Those may be too hard for some children to bear.

Adult Themes of the Book

Of course, there are obvious issues of foul language, sexual content, and violence. But even without those overt things, a book may have some heavy adult themes that a child is not equipped to handle yet. Is your child ready to read about the Holocaust and the brutality of slavery? There is no need to push a book too early. It can always be read later.

How Can You Tell if a Book is Twaddle or a Living Book?

Here are Some Tests

Identifying twaddle is not hard once you get a feel for a living book. Basically, a living books is quality literature. Not all books marketed for children and young adults are quality. Many of them are quickly produced stories with predictable plots and shallow characters. There is nothing but fluff in them, and possibly even plenty of harmful content (adult themes, violence, occult, etc.).

Use this chart when evaluating a book. If it falls more on the left hand side, it's probably twaddle. 

twaddle  living book
irritating endearing
once is enough good enough to read again
will become outdated classic
trivial ideas meaningful themes
characters are flat characters come alive and become your friends (or enemies)
shallow multi-layered meanings
predictable great story
is in the yardsale box will always have a space on the bookshelf
reads like a TV show reads like a book
is based on a movie was a book you loved as a child

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Updated: 02/27/2012, Jimmie
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Holistic_Health on 10/21/2011

Thanks for introducing me to this concept. I had no idea what a 'living book' was.

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