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Living Books

06/01/2007 - In the nineteenth century, English educator Charlotte Mason recommended a "one-page test" to parents, teachers and children. Her test was simple. She encouraged them to read one page from a book and see if it caught their interest. If it did, it was likely to be a "living book".

According to Mason, a living book is "not dry"; its words are well chosen. In a living book, historical accounts spring back to life, foreign countries can be visited without a passport and storybook characters can become lifelong friends.

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When my oldest son was four years old, I did a one-page test on one of my childhood favorites, Ribsy by Beverly Cleary. He was immediately hooked and it was the start of his love for chapter books.

Living books can be as thick as Louisa May Alcott's Little Women or as thin and small as the tales written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. They do not need to be chapter books or picture books. They can be books of poetry and interesting reference books.

While many of the living books are classics, modern books can be living books, too. Candace Fleming's 2003 picture book, Boxes for Katje, is one of them. Fleming's way of capturing true events makes it easy to vist Olst, Holland and anticipate Postman Kleinhoonte's deliveries.

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Living books can be enjoyed more than once. One of my children's favorites is King Bidgood's In The Bathtub by Audry Wood. I don't know how many times I have read it aloud (with varying voices) and we have cracked up every time.

Living books have so much to offer. We have discovered that they make dinner times special, bedtimes more inviting and road trips more pleasant. They help remind us to slow down, have a good laugh, nourish our minds and strengthen our family bond.

Our downtown Natrona County Library and Mills branch have many living books for check out, along with a Summer Reading Program for children and adults starting now. With entertaining programs, prizes and storytimes, the Summer Reading Program is as enjoyable as trying to get King Bidgood our of the bathtub!

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