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Are Living Books Superior or Not?

March 03, 2014 3 min read

Living books are superior.

Hey, Y'all, this is Blaine and Tracey Sassafras writing to answer the question, "Are living books superior or not?"

Of course, we think they are awesome, so much so that we let Johnny and Paige share our story as part of a living books curriculum for homeschool science.

Here's why we think they rock:

  • They bring a subject to life in a way that no textbook can.
  • They hold our interests far better than a dry lecture.
  • They are far more engaging than a point by point outline.

But does this mean that you should only use living books in your homeschool?

And for that matter, what are living books? We've asked Paige to come in and share her definition of living books along with her opinion on whether or not they are superior.

Thanks, Blaine & Tracey! I am a firm believer in the benefits of living books, so I'm excited to share more about them with your readers today. Let's get started...

What are Living Books?

In the last few years, we have seen all kinds of different books labeled as living, even when they are not. This type of error comes out of a misunderstanding of what living books are.

Here is our definition of a living book:

Living book (n) - A book that engages the reader and draws him or her into learning more about a subject. This type of book is typically narrative in style and written by an authority on the material.

A living book is written by someone with a passion for the material or by someone who has experienced the story first hand.

The author is able to pull the reader into the story. He or she presents the scientific or historical facts in such a way that the student hardly realizes they are learning.

Are Living Books Superior?

In some ways, living books are a superior learning tool when compared to the typical textbook or encyclopedia. These reference works cover a broad range of topics in a systematic manner. Often, the students can have difficulty engaging with the material and thus, will be less apt to remember what they have read.

Living books draw the reader in and present the facts as part of a story line. This technique usually leads to greater retention of the material. Many children’s encyclopedias do use visually stunning pictures to compensate for this downfall. But, it still remains a shortcoming of any reference work.

On the other hand, living books are limited because they focus on one specific topic, which takes time to explore. In a living book, you must read the story as a whole to learn the material. While in a reference book you can quickly access the information you need. So, it may take a week or two to learn about the American Revolution through a living book. But, you can read a several page summary of the war in less than an hour from a reference book.

Because of this some students can get bogged down in the story and lose sight of what they are learning. If you use living books exclusively for your children’s education, it could take years to cover everything. So, the amount of time it can take to cover a topic is a shortcoming of using living books.

As you can see, both of these resources have benefits and downfalls. So, when choosing whether to use a living book or reference work for a particular topic, you need to decide:

  • How much time do I have to devote to this study?
  • And, how much material would I like to cover in that time?

As homeschoolers, we can use both these materials for a well-rounded approach to learning.


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