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Why Living Books are a Parent’s (and Child’s) Best Friend

I distinctly remember reading the book Across Five Aprils when I was in middle school. The book had a profound impact on me, providing three reading firsts:

  1. It was the first living book I had ever read on my own initiative.
  2. It was the first time I understood the US Civil War.
  3. It was the first book that made me cry over and worry about the characters.

This book imparted a connection to the war and the people involved in it; I’ve been a passionate student of history ever since.

That’s what living books do. They become your friends, they touch your life, and you aren’t the same afterwards. You have relationships with them, and they make you feel emotions as any friend would.

Using Living Books

There are endless ways to use living books, but here are my three favorites.

1. Living Books as Curriculum

One reason why living books teach so much better than textbooks do is that you care about them so you remember them. No one I know has ever cared about a textbook! That’s why, when it was time to homeschool my own children, I chose a curriculum that was based on living books. Because of this literature-based approach, my children love learning, and they remember what they learn!

2. Living Books as Mentors

Don’t think that living books are only for school. I also love to use them as recreational read-alouds. One of our favorites is Summer of the Monkeys. Although it doesn’t teach an era of history, the lessons about emotions and relationships are top notch. We cheer for Jay Berry as he tries to capture the monkeys, we belly laugh at the monkeys’ antics, and we cry about sacrifice when we read this book together. My kids learn how to take care of their siblings from this book. They also learn about grit and determination. The beauty of learning these lessons through a book is that I don’t teach them directly. (My children would most likely tune me out anyway.) Instead, the grandpa in the book teaches them. And they are spellbound.

That’s the magic of living books! Our families have access to thousands of mentors. Our children enjoy the narratives so much, they don’t realize that they are being taught character lessons alongside!

3. Living Books as Friends

When I was young, I was bullied and often came home crying. My wise mother comforted me, prayed with me, and gave me living books with female heroines to be my friends. Anne spelled with an e became a pal. So did Sara, who always acted kindly, as a little princess should. I imagined myself a pioneer girl with Laura Ingalls or hunting moths with Elnora Comstock.*

These characters gave their friendship when no one else would. They encouraged noble thoughts and deeds and gave me hope when they suffered—and conquered—hard times of their own.

Surround your children with high quality living books, and they will have friends, lessons, and mentors to guide them for years to come. There is no more enjoyable way to learn than through the immersive experience of getting lost in a great novel.

*Books with female protagonists referenced as friends:

Anne of Green Gables

A Little Princess

Little House books

A Girl of the Limberlost

Discover these additional characters and titles at

The Penderwick sisters

Buran in Seven Daughters and Seven Sons

Kit in The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Caddie Woodlawn

Mable and Sarah Jane in the In Grandma’s Attic series

Natalie Nelson in The School Story

Gooney Bird Greene

Jordan Johnston in About Average

Elizabeth Ann in Understood Betsy

Claudia in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Forget Boring Textbooks!

Living books really do help our children understand a time period and develop their own writing skills … no comparison to dry textbook education! I love that their heroes are men and women of faith, not some here-today-gone-tomorrow pop star. — Sarah R of Earlham, IA

Discover how a literature-based curriculum can ignite your children’s passion to learn. Experience the Sonlight difference today: the best of both Charlotte Mason and Classical styles, strong academics, fully planned Instructor’s Guides, and curriculum Advisors to help you out. It’s everything you need to succeed. Guaranteed.

Choose the living books curriculum you’re guaranteed to love today. Learn more.


Jen lives in rural Arizona with her husband Ammon, her 5 children and lots of dark chocolate. With a background in education and history, she loves being able to guide her children’s education in a variety of ways, including at times, homeschooling. She is a natural resource gatherer, and inspirational resources make her especially happy. You can find carefully curated books, movies and other family friendly resources, as well as inspiration for parents, at

Sonlight is a complete, literature-based, Christian homeschool curriculum with every subject for students from preschool through high school. Our curriculum uses a variety of materials to deliver an engaging and complete education that extends beyond textbooks and memorization: literary fiction and nonfiction, biographies, illustrations, and hands-on experiments. These resources come with thorough lesson plans and notes, so that you can enjoy successful homeschooling. Customers who buy from Sonlight enjoy a liberal arts education that produces critical thinkers who are ambassadors for Christ with a heart for the world.

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