“Living books” are basically the opposite of dull, dry textbooks. The people, places and events come alive as you read a living book. The stories touch your mind and heart. They are timeless.
Finding living books for studies in government, American history, and general literature is relatively easy. But finding living Science books has been more of a challenge for many modern day Charlotte Mason educators.
The following list of books was compiled from several on- and off-line discussions with mothers using Charlotte Mason’s methods at home with their children–women who had discovered books they liked to use for science that fit with their personal ideas of what makes a book a “living book.” Since tastes and sensitivities are so personal, your mileage may vary.
I’ve included direct links to the books on Amazon.com so you can browse the reviews of other readers to get a better idea of which books would be appropriate for your home and/or classroom. Just click on the book’s title to see more information.
Amazon.com also offers free shipping on orders above a particular amount (usually $25), so if you have several books you’d like to order, it can be just as inexpensive to buy from Amazon as to order through your local bookstore. Plus you get the fun of having books delivered to your door — that’s always big excitement at my house!
Please feel free to submit your personal favorite “living” science books. Send suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Girl of the Limberlost
by Gene Stratton Porter (preteen to adult)
A touching story of a girl’s trials and tribulations, and her devout love of nature.
Archimedes and the Door to Science
by Jeanne Bendick, Laura M. Berquist (older children/teens)
An interesting and educational book about the life and work of Archimedes, the Greek mathemetician.
Backyard: One Small Square
by Donald M. Silver (elementary)
Introduces children to the natural wonders of their own backyard. Teaches increased powers of observation.
The Ben Franklin Book of Easy and Incredible Experiments
by Lisa Jo Rudy, et al (late-elementary to teen)
Child-friendly activities and experiments related to some of Benjamin Franklin’s major interests: weather, electricity, music, paper and printing, light, and sound. An excellent resource to supplement a study of Franklin’s life.
Children of Summer: Henri Fabre’s Insects
by Margaret J. Anderson (teen to adult)
A fictionalized account of what it might have been like growing up in the family of Jean-Henri Fabre, noted naturalist and author. Told from the viewpoint of his son.
Chipmunks on the Doorstep
by Edwin Tunis (elementary to adult)
Tunis kept a nature diary about the chipmunks playing in his yard each year. Delightful drawings, excellent text. Currently out-of-print, but definitely worth ordering through an out-of-print book search such as: http://www.ABE.com
The Christian Liberty Nature Readers (5 book series)
by Florence Bass, et al (early elementary)
Elementary “readers” but so much more than just “See Spot Run!” Your child will actually learn about nature and God’s creation while learning to read.
(The) Cloud Book
by Tomie dePaola (preschool to elementary)
A basic (and beautifully illustrated) introduction to the science of clouds for children.
Handbook of Nature Study
by Anna Comstock (elementary to teen)
A detailed guide for studying nature with your children (whether at home or in the classroom). It’s not a book to actually read “to” your kids … read it yourself to find ideas for how to present different concepts and answer questions while teaching. Especially good book if you’re located in the eastern half of the United States, but helpful ideas no matter where you live. Written by a science and nature professor at Cornell University in New York.
Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You
by Clare Walker Leslie, Charles E. Roth (preteen to adult)
A beautiful book written by college level science teachers who use Nature Journals as their main method of instruction.
by Gene Porter Stratton (late elementary to adult)
“Educators, naturalists and Theologians will be inspired by Gene Porter Stratton’s ideas… The story of ‘Laddie’ has many similarities to the author’s own childhood, making it even more interesting.” (from a review on Amazon.com)
Leonardo Da Vinci for Kids: His Life and Ideas
by Janis Herbert (elementary to early teens)
Well-written text, a wide variety of side-notes, experiments, illustrations, and art projects for kids based on the life of Da Vinci.
(The) Life of the Fly
by Jean-Henri Fabre (preteen to adult)
A classic work on insect life and behavior.
Linnea in Monet’s Garden
by Christina Bjork (preschool to late-elementary)
Journey with Linnea to Paris and Monet’s house at Giverny. Learn about his life and art through this entertaining and educational book children will love!
Lyrical Life Science
by Doug C. Eldon, et al (elementary to teens)
Audio cassette of fun, well-written songs for happily learning scientific terms and concepts.
(The) Passionate Observer: Writings from the World of Nature
by Jean-Henri Fabre (teen to adult)
An anthology of brief nature-related essays by Henri Fabre, a noted natural historian and well-respected contemporary of Charles Darwin and Victor Hugo.
(The) Physics of Star Trek
by Lawrence M. Krauss (early teens to adult)
A fun look at the fanciful “inventions” from the Star Trek series. Are transporters and holodecks really possible within the realm of physics?
(The) Stars: A New Way to See Them
by Hans Augusto Rey (preschool to early teens)
If the author’s name, H.A. Rey, sounds familiar, he’s also the author of the original Curious George books! This book was highly recommended by several parents.
Thomas Alva Edison: Inventing the Electric Age
by Gene Adair (late-elementary to teen)
This is one of my daughter’s all-time favorite books. She was greatly inspired by Edison’s life and the fact that he was a bit “outside the box” in his thinking and way of life. A great inspiration for all of us who are a little “out-of-the-box” ourselves.
Trumpet of the Swan
by E.B. White (preschool to late-elementary)
A wonderful story about honesty, perseverance and integrity through the life of Louis the swan. My children developed a strong interest in learning more about swans (the real trumpeter variety) after reading this book aloud together.
by Henry David Thoreau (older teens to adult)
The author’s observations of the natural world around him–and his observations on life–are often inspiring as well as thought-provoking. I recommend parents read this one for themselves first, before setting their children loose with this book. There could be philosophies or world views contrary to your family’s sensitivities that you’ll want to avoid or discuss in greater detail with your children.
LIST COMPILED BY: Deborah Taylor-Hough
–Debi is the editor of the Charlotte Mason Monthly, a free email newsletter for homeschool families. Subscribe: click here. She’s the full-time mother of three, a free-lance writer, and author of several books including the popular, Frozen Assets: Cook for a day, eat for a month, and the newly released, Frugal Living For Dummies. Stop by and visit Debi at: TheSimpleMom.com