More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment
A Living Book – More Than Just a Pretty Cover!
Charlotte Mason believed “living” books make learning ‘come alive.’ Living books pull you in and make you want to read more. Each page you turn, you find yourself more and more invested in the book you are reading. You begin to know the characters, inside and out. Your emotions rise and fall as you weather the storms and ride the waves with them. You can begin to predict how they’ll react to situations before they even make a move. By the time you read the last page, you know you’ve met some characters you’ll never forget. They will go with you through life and live on in your memory. That’s what living books can do, and they are so much more than just pretty covers!
Not all living books have pretty covers!
Carrie, the author of Heart of Dakota and my amazing sister, has an incredible knack for finding the absolute best living books! Through the past 20 years of Heart of Dakota’s existence, Carrie has been on an unending search for the very best of the best living books. I cannot tell you how many times I have stopped by my sister’s house to find her reading for hours on end, with piles and piles of books surrounding her to be read next. She has tirelessly dedicated herself to finding the diamonds in the rough. Sure, there are timeless, well-known living books that have won ample awards that Carrie has chosen to include in Heart of Dakota. However, there are also the less known needle-in-the-haystack finds that Carrie has lovingly chosen – and I will say, not all of them have pretty covers.
A pretty cover is sometimes just a pretty cover!
I remember Carrie showing me some of the books’ covers she was choosing between. She would ask my opinion, and sometimes, I’d look at the covers and be swayed this way or that. Then, she’d sometimes plead the case for the less than pretty cover and have me read a chapter of both books in the running. As I finished reading each, she’d have that look on her face like, “Gotcha! Didn’t I?!?” Yes. Hands down, one book would be the obvious living books’ award-winner. Often times, it was not the book with the pretty cover.
The longer children use Heart of Dakota, the less they seem to care about the pretty covers!
The longer my children have used Heart of Dakota, the less they seem to care about the pretty covers. After my oldest son read Heart of Dakota’s Cat of Bubastes and Boy Knight, he became an avid fan of the author G.A. Henty. His Christmas list that year included ‘anything by G.A. Henty.’ Old G.A. Henty books with less than pretty covers were much cheaper. Still, I was reluctant to buy them. They REALLY did NOT have pretty covers. I wasn’t sure what he’d think about that, so I asked him. I said I could either get him a lot of G.A. Henty books with less than pretty covers, or a few G.A. Henty books with nicer covers that were more recently published. He didn’t skip a beat! He grinned and said, “Uhhh, MORE please – it’s what’s inside that counts, right Mom?” Well said, son.
Veteran Heart of Dakota users are often the best defenders of the books with less than pretty covers!
Often when I am helping someone on the phone at Heart of Dakota, we are both online or in catalogs peering at the covers of books. The same is true when I am helping someone at a convention. I have noticed with families newer to Heart of Dakota, there are often comments about the covers of the books. Newer books with shiny covers and beautiful artwork often grab their attention first. In contrast, older books with covers that may not have been updated for awhile get comments like, My daughter just wouldn’t open this book and read it on her own. Or, My son wouldn’t like this book because of the cover; it’s just not that exciting.
This is when I find myself beginning to defend these books with less than pretty covers! I often end up launching into an oral narration of sorts. (By the way, thank you Charlotte Mason and Heart of Dakota for that wise instruction too!) If I am in this situation at a homeschool convention, I often don’t have to say a word. A nearby Heart of Dakota homeschool mom or homeschool student listening in does the defending for me. Oh, that was our favorite book! The cover doesn’t do it justice! Or, Just wait ’til you get into that book – it’s awesome! You won’t be able to put it down!
I urge you, take time to look within, rather than hastily judging a book by its cover!
I want to be clear, Heart of Dakota has many, many books with vibrant, breathtakingly beautiful covers! In fact, most of the covers of the living books we carry draw kiddos in from the moment they lay their eyes on them. However, I urge you, for the love of living books, take time to look within them, rather than hastily judging them by their covers. Some of the very best books that are real gems happen to have less than pretty covers. Remember, as a wise son of mine once said, “It’s what’s inside that counts, right?” Yes, well said! Now, let’s open that book and read to discover its real merit. It might have much more to offer than that shiny new book somebody is selling next door that really has, well, just a pretty cover.