Living books are different from textbooks and encyclopedias in many ways.
Encyclopedias contain collections of facts which serve as a great reference source, however the information provided in an encyclopedia are merely short superficial descriptive summaries of specific topics. Although encyclopedias are of great value in any library within their specific scope as a reference text and not a literary work.
Textbooks on the other hand may contain more depth of information on topics, but they are generally a collection of facts and information from numerous authors. Many of the textbooks today are colorful and filled with numerous images to grasp the attention of the reader. However they continue to be non-literary in nature, and do not inspire the reader to read more due to their factual content. Textbooks are anthologies of multiple topics which also limits their ability for deeper knowledge on each topic. Their design by nature is also not meant for leisure reading, but rather for study and memorization.
Living Books fall in a completely different category. These are books usually written by a single author that is an expert in the field of study. Due to the author's enthusiastic interest and depth of knowledge, he or she also exhibits a lot of passion for the subject which is evident in the writing and 'story' of the book. The author's ideas and experiences of the subject grab the reader's attention, and the imagination is stimulated by the creative literary descriptions and stories.
The excitement and adventure of a living book open the reader's heart to a thrilling, deeper understanding of the topic.
I saw the distinct difference between a textbook and a living book in my son. I gave him a colorful, modern elementary Science textbook and thought this book would be an excellent text for Science. This books is used by the public school system, so it must be good. I was in for quite a surprize.
At first my son randomly paged through the Science textbook, absorbing a variety tidbits on a variety of topics, but he demonstrated very little enthusiasm or interest. He mostly looked at the pictures, read some of the text and then tossed the book aside. Since I decided to follow the textbook for our Science class, we started reading through the textbook together, looking at pictures and answering questions, and even doing some of the practical activities suggested in the book. All this time my son never spontaneously pulled the book off the shelf. He participated without complaint when we read the textbook for our Science class, but I detected no real enthusiasm. We were just going through the motions.
Then I loaned a book on spiders from the library. This book was also filled with lots of pictures and text, but this book grabbed my son's attention in such a way that he spent hours paging through it, comparing different spiders, reading the text, enthusiastically coming to me and telling me about the different spiders. Without any prompting, he kept going back to the same book day after day, often re-reading about a specific spider, or searching for an answer to a questions that popped into his head. As the days passed, I noticed a tremendous increase in his knowledge about spiders. He recounted stories and little tidbits that the author shared, he grabbed scratch paper and made numerous drawings of spiders, and different kinds of webs. He even wanted to know more about the author of the book, and we read that this author and photographer traveled all over the globe in search of these fascinating spiders. The author's love and passion for spiders was evident in every page.
All this was unfolding before my eyes without any encouragement or prompting from me. We have discovered Living Books. True learning was taking place and I was amazed. Needless to say, I tossed the textbook. Now we've set up camp at our local library and I'm constantly searching for more Living Books.
Below is a list of living books that we have enjoyed in our homeschool:
by Allan Drummand