Living Books

Today is a good day because I’m expecting books. Lots and Lots of books!  I’m probably the only person who looks forward to school starting and that’s because of the books.




There’s almost nothing more exciting than when you’re expecting a big box of them. Or two. Or three.

In our home school, we don’t read boring textbooks. We read what’s termed “living books.”  Information shared or stories told by writers passionate about their topics. Lessons learned through the eyes of characters living in different times and places.

I’m going to pull from Jim Rubart’s earlier (and timely) post when he said, “. . .stories stick with us far longer than five points and two wrap up action steps. Stories embed their way into our soul. And they resurface at times when three bullet points wouldn’t come close to the comfort those stories bring.”


The same is true for school textbooks in general. How often do you recall something you read in a textbook during your school days that impassioned you? Or touched your soul and stayed with you? On the other hand, I’m sure you remember the classics you read like Where the Red Fern Grows, or Old Yeller, or historical novels that informed you of history.

In fact, the first series of Christian fiction novels I ever read was The Zion Covenant series by Bodie Thoene. I learned more about World War II that way than by anything I had studied in school. Perhaps you could argue that some of the history isn’t accurate.  In this case, Mrs. Thoene’s husband is a historian. We won’t start a discussion about textbook accuracy here.

One of my favorites is Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes—what a fabulous story about the revolutionary war through the eyes of a silversmith’s apprentice. I learned far more about the American Revolution through that book than any text.

By the Great Horn Spoon about the California Gold rush. Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman. The Witch of Blackbird Pond set in colonial Connecticut. The Call of the Wild by Jack London. I could keep going, but historical novels, when done with an eye for accuracy, can teach so much more than mere textbooks.

I’m not saying that we won’t be using any textbooks, but their use will be kept to the absolute minimum and heavily supplemented with living books.

Because when we read “living books” we remember. We are changed forever for having read them.

Now I’d love to hear from you. I’m guessing that your love for reading started with these kind of stories. Share one of your favorites.

Elizabeth Goddard is the award-winning author of Oregon Outback and Freezing Point, available wherever books are sold.

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3 Responses to Living Books

  1. Sarah Goebel says:

    This year in my grandson’s 9th grade curriculum, we are reading stories that teach character principles such as God Sees the Truth but Waits by Leo Tolstoy (truth and wisdom), Courage Has a Crimson Coat by Nancy Byrd Turner (courage), etc. I find this method a great one for teaching character and he really enjoys it! However, I could use some suggestions for history and other important facts our students need to learn that are embedded accurately within “living stories.” If you have a website that has this information or should you have some good suggestions for this age group, I would so appreciate your sharing,


  2. bethrachg says:


    Many people use the Sonlight curriculum catalog to find age and topic appropriate books.

    Also, there’s Charlotte Mason:

    And Heart of Wisdom.


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