Choosing Great Books for your Living Literature List – Help for creating an awesome read-aloud list and a FREE download.

Hello, dear friends!!!

So, I have the privilege of talking to countless homeschool Moms.  Especially Mamas who are all nervous and stressed out and just beginning their homeschool journey. Yep, just like I was 6 years ago… 

They talk about when to teach reading, how soon kids should write, how to do math, and if they are covering enough at age 4 (snicker).  And I listen, smile, and try my hardest to be an encourager.

I’m afraid though that I sound pretty much a broken record.

Every single time I encourage a new homeschool Mama (or one  who is overwhelmed!), I say, “take a deep breath and just READ MORE GREAT BOOKS”.  (I should get a tattoo, seriously…)

It’s not that we don’t do any formal instruction.  It’s not like we chill out in our PJs, eat chocolate chip muffins and read on the couch all day – well, sometimes the PJ part is true…

But the truth is – if you are reading lots of fantastic living books with your kids, you are already leaps and bounds ahead of most.  Reading living books together is the KEY to opening your child’s heart and mind to a rich, full, self-education.

But so often after I suggest implementing more “GREAT BOOKS” into the homeschool, many Moms ask me how on earth do you choose which books to read each year?

Ah, that’s a bit more difficult.

But not impossible.

There are SO many resources available for wonderful living books.

If you are choosing your own read-alouds (instead of using a program what picks them for you), it is a good idea to have a handle on what you hope to read for the year at the beginning of the year.  Or at least at the beginning of the term.  This gives you a direction and also something to aim for in terms of goals.

As a Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschooler, I tend to fall into a trap of reading almost ALL Historical Fiction.  There is nothing wrong with Historical Fiction but there are many other types of books that are wonderfully enriching and ‘living’ for children.

I created the Living Literature List to help me plan the books we hope to read for the upcoming term and year.  (Click to download.)

There are two pages with categories to fill in with various book choices.  You could plan by year, if you choose – but we will plan by term, because all our book titles for the year would never fit in that grid…  *wink*

Basically, how this works is that you look at the different categories and fill in quality Living Book titles for each category.  It’s very simple.

This form is helpful (I hope) because it at least gives you a starting place.

There are spaces to fill in.  I LOVE spaces to fill in.  I talk about this often.  I talked about it in my last post about my Planning Binder, and also in my post about how I put together our own Charlotte Mason Homeschool Plans...

The reason I love spaces to fill in SO MUCH is because it just makes it easier on my brain.  (Honestly…!)  To sit down late at night or in the wee hours of the morning and just randomly think of all the titles you could or should read in a term or school year is SO overwhelming!

Of course, this Living Literature List is not by any means perfect or all encompassing.  It certainly is not exhaustive.  It is a starting place and a very solid structure for choosing what I think would be a rich ‘buffet’ of literature for your family.

The Living Book List Categories Include:

Genres to Consider – 

  • Classic
  • Humor
  • Mystery
  • Biography
  • Adventure
  • Fantasy
  • Folk Tale
The first time I was introduced to the idea of considering scheduling various ‘genres’ was when I reviewed Heart of Dakota.

I actually loved the way they categorized their family read-aloud suggestions by genre.  I had never really thought to choose a humorous book or specifically a mystery.  It works.  It makes you think out of the box and kids love variety and you may be inspired to add books to your list that you otherwise wouldn’t ever think to plug in there.

Examples of Titles:

Classics – A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Peter Pan, Oliver Twist, The Hobbit, Little Women, The Wind in the Willows, etc.
Humor – The House at Pooh Corner, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, The House at Pooh Corner
Mystery – The Doll People, Mystery of Pelican Cove, Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case
Biography – Louis Braille, Helen Keller, Pocahontas, Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin, Ben and Me, etc.
Adventure – Wolves of Willoughby Chase, By the Great Horn Spoon, The Sword in the Tree, A Lion to Guard Us
Fantasy – The Littles, Catwings, Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, Pilgrim’s Progress
Folk Tale – Aesop’s Fables, The Apple and the Arrow, Stories from Grandma’s Attic, Starry River of the Sky  (I have a bunch of Folk Tale suggestions on my Pinterest Board here.)

Inspirational/Hero Tales –

This is an absolute must in our family.  WE LOVE reading Inspiration and Hero-style books.  We have adored Dave and Neta Jackson’s Hero Tales (all 4 volumes) and have read many biographies of Christian heroes.  This is a great addition to your reading, friends – I suggest at least 1-2 titles in this category per term!

Historical Fiction –

Books that are written with a fictional tone but have strong historical roots and/or tell of a historical figure, event, or time period tale are considered Historical Fiction.  These are ideal for Living Books because we are connecting with the people and experiences of a certain time in history.  These are by far our family’s favorite kind of read-alouds.
Examples: The Little House series, In Search of Honor, Elijah of Buxton, Sarah Witcher’s Story, Number the Stars, The Cabin Faced West, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Justin Morgan Had a Horse, and COUNTLESS others.

Books we’ve always wanted to Read –

Pretty self explanatory.  Think of books you have always wanted to read but never have.  This past year, a couple that I picked were, A Little Princes and The Secret Garden.  For the upcoming year I have considered Peter Pan and also Heidi… but there are TONS of books I always want to read, I just have to narrow it down to a few for THIS term!

Geography-based Living Books –

These are books with a cultural bend set in various places all over the globe.  They act as Living Books to expand our understanding of the world, cultures, and geography.  There are tons to choose from and many wonderful titles have been included in a brand new book (which I highly recommend!), called, Give Your Child the World.  This book is basically a big printed Living Book List for all the continents on this globe.  It is WONDERFUL.

Also – my Geography with Living Books Pinterest Board.  *smile*

Nature Study/Natural History Books –

These are books that cover topics of nature, biographies of Naturalists, or are engaging books that teach about the natural world in an interesting way.

Examples:  The Burgess Bird Book, The ‘Adventures of’ series by Burgess, Girls Who Look Under Rocks, John Audubon biography, Plant Life in Field and Garden, etc.

There are honestly thousands and listing any at all is hard because there are just too many great Living Books for Nature Study.

 Check out the Pinterest Board for Nature Study books HERE.

Titles from various Booklists –

It’s totally okay to just use some GREAT booklists and pick and choose the titles that appeal to you!

Have you seen my GREAT BIG LIST OF LIVING BOOK LINKS?  It is one of the most visited posts on this blog!  

I also use lists from Ambleside, Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, Simply Charlotte Mason, to name a few…

Non-Fiction –

In Charlotte Mason-inspired homes I feel non-fiction often gets overlooked.  But there are SO MANY amazing non-fiction books to be read.  Also, many children engage with and learn from non-fiction better than fiction.  Leaving out this side of the reading world would be a shame for many children.  My son is one of those kids.  He loves fiction but he will often curl up with an Usborne Encyclopedia or a non-fiction title we’ve borrowed from the library.

Often I will choose non-fiction titles that go along with what we are studying in History, Geography, or Natural Science/Nature Study.

What’s on our list this term (Term 1)?

(This is not an exhaustive list, just a taste!)

From the Genres section:  Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Ginger Pye by E. Estes, Louis Braille biography by M. Davidson, The Borrowers, Starry River of the Sky and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, 

Historical Fiction: Caddie Woodlawn, A Pioneer Story by B Greenwood, Amos Fortune, Free Man

Inspirational/Hero Tales: And the Word Came with Power by J. Shetler, Heroes in Black History by Dave and Neta Jackson

Books we’ve always wanted to read: Heidi by J. Spyri

Geography and Culture: The Kite Fighters by L. Park

Nature Study/Natural History Books:  Among the Farmyard People by C. Pierson, Girls Who Looked Under Rocks by J. Atkins

Books from Various Booklists:  King of the Golden River

I truly hope this post and the Living Literature List file is helpful to some of you.  Also, I have the Individual Reading List file if you would like to create a similar list of ‘hope to read’s for your individual children.


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