1. Choose books written in a narrative, or conversational, style.
2. Choose books that are well-written with good vocabulary and grammar.
3. Choose books that you’ll enjoy, too.I remember when I first came across a beautiful picture book by Jan Brett, I took it home and read it to my kids, and then immediately put every book the library had by her on hold so that we could read them. Those are the kinds of books we want to use with our kids! I use myself as a litmus test for most of our books. If it meets the other two requirements, then I look at the book myself and if it’s one that I want to read, we use it. If I flip through and find it boring or ugly (because I think that illustrations can be living or twaddle, too!), I’ll look for something better. Not every family will choose the same books, which is part of the beauty of an education based on living books. Our rule is that we have to read at least the first 3 chapters of any book before swapping it out for a different one. By chapter 3, we’ve usually read enough to get a feel for the author’s style and I can determine whether it’s a good fit for us. If it’s not, we stop reading and try something else. There are too many good books out there for us to force our way through ones we don’t like. There are exceptions to this rule, especially as kids get older and are reading more difficult books, but for now our rule works well. And you know what? Even if lots of people love a certain book, you don’t have to. There’s no guilt or shame in saying “this one just didn’t fit us!” Every family is different, and the ability to choose your own books is one of the amazing freedoms of home educating. What about you? How do you choose living books for your family? Have you felt the same paralysis I did? Maybe there’s a popular book that you can’t stand? Tell me in the comments! Be sure to check out my shop to see some of my favorite living books.
One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child’s intellectual life. Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children, pg. 270.