What is “living book” or “living story format”?

It’s a brilliant way to teach ALL ages (2 to 102).  Living Book is writing that draws the reader in; it is often in narrative style and written with much passion.  It is often referred to as “conversational” in tone.

Living story, the term we are using to help distinguish, is one branch within “living book” format.  Living story contains a story component, utilizing characters to teach the lesson while often containing good literary quality OR other overlapping themes, etc.

Compare the following (seriously… read it to your family and see which they prefer) :

A volcano is where there is a crack in the earth’s crust that allows magma to escape. The high temperature typically remains solid because of the large amount of pressure from the surrounding rock. If the pressure around the mantle decreases, this causes the melting point to decrease which then causes the rock to melt. The most active volcanic area is the Ring of Fire fault line that is the largest and most active fault line in the world. Approximately 75% of all volcanoes occur around the ring of fire. [Read that to a kid (or an adult) and ask them if they have ANY idea what it means or if they even care about it]

—now try this—

“Riding in the helicopter, Chris looked out and was terrified and excited, all at once. He could see flaming lava spewing out and over the edge of the massive earth below. He wasn’t sure if the heat on his face was his imagination or actual burning air rising to his nostrils. Just moments before, that lava was only something called magma—melting rocks deep beneath the surface. A seemingly innocent mountain, he thought to himself… hiding the dangerous rocks of fire lying under it all this time. The opening in the mountain top and the cracks in the earth allowed the magma to escape— the volcano they were now witnessing. A short time ago, the pressure of the earth started to decrease, and those rocks started to melt… Chris looked down at the great Pacific Ocean under his dangling feet and saw the lava flowing into the water. He wondered to himself where the lava went, or how far down it sank. The sight was like nothing he had seen before, and his imagination ran away with him. Now he understood why they called this area “The Ring of Fire.” He thought he could almost see it from this view up high: what looked like a circle (or a ring) of volcanoes around the edge of the ocean. The one spewing lava this day was one of them. He’d heard it said that 75% of all volcanoes were here in this ring. He wondered what it would look like if they all erupted at once. How terrifying! Suddenly, the helicopter jolted, bringing him back to the moment. Something caught in the blades and the pilot lost…..”

Run a little test:

Read both of the above to your family and see which one is more captivating. They both taught the same fundamental things. They both even contained the same “facts.” The first is merely sentences copied/pasted from Wikipedia/Britannica/etc and makes little sense. Worse– it’s forgetful, even if it it’s not confusing.

The second is something typed up by us a few seconds ago as a silly example of “living story format.” Teaching the student through literature (hopefully with good literary quality) is ideal.  Living books can be stories designed to draw in the student and make them want to learn (and also help them to retain the learning). The living book format not only captivates, but it can EXPLAIN the lessons being taught, with passion. Sometimes our units have a little extra story line just to draw in the students.  They reach not only the mind with understanding, but the emotions with passion.  The stories teach MUCH more effectively than the first example above.  Sometimes the “story” encompasses the entire lesson; sometimes it serves to get the lesson started.  It varies by unit.  Each person’s idea of a living book can take on its own form for a unique purpose, but this is the gist.

Campfire Curriculums units are all written in living book format, with a large percentage in living story… and this is why.

P.S: Charlotte Mason was a huge advocate of living books.
PS #2: Often, living books also contain an underlying message, virtuous characters, and moralistic lessons, as well.
PS #3: Living books are for all ages. Just like the movies you re-watch as an adult and think, “NOW I get what they meant! I never understood that part when I was little…” There are different parts of the story for different ages, but the less