Charlotte Mason was a 19th century educator who believed that children have a natural desire and love for learning, in a time when children were to be seen and not heard, and frequently treated cruelly by both society and education systems. She devised methods to facilitate a positive learning atmosphere that encouraged the use of ‘living books’: books she defined as ‘sparking the imagination of the child through the subject matter.’ Her approach focuses on the child as a person and worthy of being educated with real ideas and concepts and not with what she referred to as ‘twaddle’. As such, it is a child-centred method, with the exploration of the natural world also being a key focus. The method emphasises the understanding of concepts and ideas instead of being focused on facts, with lessons usually kept short and covering a wide variety of subjects. Although historically a Christian based method of education, many people today adapt the method to suit their own beliefs.

When considering which living books to provide your children, the Charlotte Mason method encourages books that make the subject matter come alive for children. If you are going to be reading aloud, make it a book you will also enjoy. Charlotte Mason did not encourage the use of abridged versions of books and instead believed that a parent or educator could read the original full text but omit sections where appropriate. Biographies of people who speak with passion and reflect on their life experiences are also considered quality content, as the author is speaking directly to the reader.

The Charlotte Mason method is sometimes considered to be better suited to younger children in the primary school years, however the use of living books and learning through quality literature is something that people of all ages can enjoy. The same is true for the exploration of nature, such as nature walks and keeping a nature art journal.

Some examples of popular books considered compatible with the Charlotte Mason method include Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Hobbit, Anne of Green Gables, The Wind in the Willows, Heidi, Little Women and The Odyssey. Children are encouraged to discuss the books, and not fill in worksheets and write book reports.