A Living Book - What is it and how do you use it? A look at Charlotte Mason's teaching resources {free printable}
How do you know if a book is a living book? – Charlotte Mason style learning

The world of homeschooling is like any other niche out there.  It is filled with sub niche’s and lingo that don’t make any sense to outsiders; like living book.  Perhaps you are a veteran homeschooler, or maybe you are new to homeschooling, or just exploring the possibility.  There is a good chance that you may have encountered the name Charlotte Mason at some point.  You might have even explored some of her teaching methods and philosophies.


But who is this Charlotte Mason???


Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  She was very passionate about education, creating reform in England to ensure that all children would receive a wide range of education no matter their social class.  Her educational philosophy and teaching methods became very popular and started spreading through schools all throughout England.

For more information on Charlotte Mason and her philosophy I highly recommend the book A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Art of Gentle Learning by Karen Andreola.

Why would someone follow those methods today???


Charlotte Mason believed in a three prong focus to education.

Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life. - Charlotte Mason Click To Tweet


The Atmosphere


She believed that atmosphere created 1/3 of a child’s education.  When she referred to atmosphere, she was referring to the environment in which the child grew up.  The home environment has a huge impact on child learning.  This atmosphere is set by the parents in how they live their lives, how they parent, and in the choices that they make day to day.  Obviously, for homeschoolers this is very important as our children spend even more time at home than their outwardly educated peers.

The Discipline


Charlotte Mason was a firm believer in creating good habits in children and developing good character traits.  This makes up another 1/3 of a child’s entire education.  Ms. Mason used the bible to help teach her students godly character.

The Life


Academics made up the final 1/3 of a child’s education.  Furthermore, Ms. Mason believed that rather than just teaching children dry facts  they should be given living thoughts and ideas.  And, this brings me to the point of this post.  Living books.  So what are they?  How do you find them?  And how do you know if a book is living?


Learning with Living Books


A living book is a book written by one author.  The author is very passionate about their subject material.  Therefore, books that are living feel like they come alive.  Written in a narrative or conversational style, these books suck you right in.  (Think opposite of a text book.)  And it is easier to remember the information presented when you are emotionally connected to the story.

It’s amazing how many living books are out there.  They aren’t labeled as living books, but once you start reading them, it becomes easier and easier to identify books that would be classified as such.  One of Ms. Mason’s other stipulations was that reading material should be well written and of high quality.  In order to help you determine if a book is suitable for this style of learning or not, Karen Andrea (in her book A Charlotte Mason Companion) recommends doing a one page test.  Read aloud to your children (or to yourself if you happen to be alone) and see if the book sparks interest.   Do they want you to read more?  Do you want to read more?  If the answer is yes then chances are you are holding a living book.

What do I do with this living book?


So now that you have found a living book, you need to use it!  In the past, our favourite times were reading out loud as a family.  When our oldest was hitting the preteen years we would have family reading nights.  We put out snack trays and drinks and all curled up on the couch to listen.  The kids would honestly beg us not to stop reading when time was up.  It was wonderful to see them so engaged in literature.

Now, our oldest is out of the house, and Izzy and I do nightly reading together while dad does the bedtime routine with Mickey Blue.  We still curl up on the couch together and get through as many chapters of a book as we can before the bedtime buzzer goes.  I cherish this time together with him.  It’s quiet time, it’s snuggle time, and it keeps us connected despite our busy days!


Incorporating living books into your life….


How to Tell if a Book is a Living Book. Charlotte Mason believed in giving children living books to learn from. What are they? How do you use them? Where do you find them? Come read my newest blog post to learn all about living books and how to get your child sucked into literature.


Therefore, to help get you started, I’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite living books for you to download, grouped by age, that can often be found at yard sales and thrift stores!

Now, with this printable you have your choice of three sizes.  You can have a full sized double sided list for your planning binder or somewhere visible at home.  Or, you can have a 1/2 sized page or 1/4 sized page – perfect for tucking into your purse.  This way you always have a copy of great books to grab whenever you stumble upon a thrift store or yardsale!   (No more wracking your brain trying to remember what you wanted to get…)

You can click on the picture above or here to get your free printable list download now!


Want to save this for later?  Here’s a pin for your Pinterest Board.

How to Tell if a Book is a Living Book. Charlotte Mason believed in giving children living books to learn from. What are they? How do you use them? Where do you find them? Come read my newest blog post to learn all about living books and how to get your child sucked into literature.


So, have you used living books before?  What are your favourites? I’d love to hear from you and I read and respond to each comment left personally!

Also, don’t forget to sign up to follow my blog and get email notifications when I post something new!  You’ll also get a password for my free resource library including the printable above!  You can join using the box below.



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  • Hi Nadine, this is really interesting. i would love to see your recommendations but I can’t get the image to open bigger. My boys are 5 and love stories #KCACOLS

    • Nadine says:

      Hi Mummy Lauretta!

      There is a link in the blog post that will allow the images to enlarge and print as well. But, I also added the link to the photos themselves. I hope this helps. Please let me know if you still have any trouble.

  • Mary Anne says:

    I´ve never read these books before, it sounds interesting, I think I would try to get one this weekend, really nice plan 😉

  • Suburban Mum says:

    I’ve not heard of these books before but will be checking them out. We did lots of reading and stories with my eldest but not so much with my younger boy.

    Thank you for linking up to #KCACOLS and I hope to see you back again on Sunday x

  • Bread says:

    This is really interesting. We’re thinking about homeschooling Snappy but there’s time yet. I love Charlotte Mason’s philosophy though. #kcacols

    • Nadine says:

      Hey Bread 🙂 Starting to recognize the names from KCACOLS now! So glad you dropped by. Homeschooling rocks! I hope that you’ll truly explore it before you decide. I know it’s not for everyone, but I LOVE homeschooling. I love being home with my kids. It’s not easy, but it’s an amazing journey!

  • I’ve never thought about what a living book was before, but now I know I’ve definitely read some and to my kids. Most of the books I read ‘come alive’ for me. Thanks for linking it to #kcacols, hope to see you again at the weekend.

    • Nadine says:

      Hey Rainbow 🙂 Thanks for coming by! It’s so cool that you have found some living books! We have read a lot too before I even knew what they were! We just finished reading My Side of the Mountain and it was so good!!!! Reading anything right now?

  • We only use living books in our homeschool too. My kids always remember the stories we learn because they get so engaged on it while we’re reading. I love the Charlotte Mason approach and how gentle and organic it is. <3

    • Nadine says:

      Hi Ana! Thanks so much for stopping by. I find the same thing too! Stories with my children really stick to them and the details they remember are usually far beyond what I remember! And it’s such a great time together. What are your favourite read alouds?

  • We used this approach in our homeschool and it did such a great job of preparing my children. They’ve both done great! Using Living Books vs Textbooks makes such a huge difference in nurturing the love of learning.

  • […] You can find living books on EVERY subject out there!  (To learn more about living books see my post How do you know if a book is a living book?) […]

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Hey, I'm Nadine!

I'm the creator of Making Her Mama & a busy homeschooling mama to 4 boys. I love sharing my experiences to encourage other moms. My family lives on Vancouver Island in Canada where we try to live naturally while raising our kids by faith.
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