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Living Books & How to Find Them

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

Knowing a good read from a bad one is often a naturally intuited thing. A careless scroll through ad-laden internet articles produces quite a hollow result within us; we know when we’ve wasted time. Yet a contemplative read of Jane Eyre or The Wind in The Willows or Idylls of The King does something in us. After such a read we’re changed for the better, and we know it.

Those reads of lasting, substantive effect in our educational realm are sometimes called Living Books, a term introduced some time ago by British educator Charlotte Mason, who said this:

Children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough…”

It’s an all-or-nothing type of statement, isn’t it? But it’s true. After all, we become, in small or large part, that which occupies our thoughts and dreams. Why not, then, think only high thoughts, and dream only great and noble dreams?

To Mrs. Sliman, the Academy’s 4th Grade Teacher and Reading Specialist, that is the first reason for which our reading selections matter: We become what we read. On that note Mrs. Sliman says this:

“A good book should make us feel; It should make us come alive in the heart and the soul to the good and the true and the beautiful - and make us aspire to live accordingly.”

What, then, are the qualities of these good and living books? Mrs. Sliman says we should look for the following:

· An redemptive narrative: We identify – as we should – with those characters who are redemeemed in the face of great internal and external conflict.

· Beautiful prose: When we read beautiful language, often our language becomes the more beautiful for it. The rhthym of our sentences, our word choice, our grammar – they all improve when we read great literature.

· An undeniable timelessness: This is why we so often prefer old books at Whitefish Christian Academy. A book that has been passed on generationally is a book that transcends trend and fleeting fashion; it is meaningful to any given culture, any given time period, because it speaks to the heart of what it means to be human.

Still, it can be difficult to know where to start. As such, the Academy has compiled a reading list that runs by grade level. So if you’re in the search for a living book, you might start here. There is a book there for everyone.

And now when you’ve gotten quite lost in the magical woods of Narnia, or have strung yew bow with the one true Robin Hood, tell us about it: Living books are meant to be shared.


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