Charlotte Mason Book Lists by Age & Subject

Krystal DeVille

Charlotte Mason Book Lists

Charlotte Mason is known for many things, one of which is her classification of certain texts and tales as “living books.”

These are books that extend beyond the page, profoundly altering the reader’s thoughts, feelings, and views. It’s a noble goal for literature. 

So, where and how can you find the best living books for your learners? 

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Benefits of Reading Charlotte Mason Books

In 1988, a teacher named Emily Bishop coined the popular metaphor of children’s books as “mirrors and windows,” meaning they should both reflect the reader’s own identity and create openings to show something different and new.

Two years later, children’s literature researcher Rudine Sims Bishop added sliding glass doors to the mix, symbolizing the way in which we “walk into” books and become fully immersed in the world of the story. 

For many, books are one of the most accessible ways to “see the world,” and to experience diverse ideas, perspectives, and cultures. High-quality texts are engaging, impactful, and comprehensive.

All of this was critically important to Charlotte Mason, who believed in the power of great writing to enhance intellect and moral character, to a much greater degree than dry textbooks or silly stories that she called “twaddle.” Thus, “living books” are a foundational element of a Charlotte Mason education.

Mason is certainly not the only teacher or scholar to suggest that reading — and especially reading literature — is highly beneficial. According to numerous studies, reading improves memory, problem-solving, and empathy among other positive cognitive and developmental impacts.

But Mason firmly believed that the type of books we read makes all the difference.

Charlotte Mason Book Lists by Age Group

Charlotte Mason selected books that were well-written and compelling. This often meant classic literature and nonfiction texts were first-hand accounts that were narrative in nature when possible. Some well-worn tales that often find their way into Charlotte Mason lists include the following: 

  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll 
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

You can find sample book lists organized by grade level from Simply Charlotte Mason as well as Classical Charlotte Mason.

Here are some Charlotte Mason book lists recommendations for different age groups based on her philosophy:

For Children Ages 0-6, Pre-school

The Tale of Peter Rabbit: Original 1902 Collector's Edition with Color Illustrations

For Children Ages 6-9, Elementary School

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

For Children Ages 9-12, Middle School

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Charlotte Mason Book Lists by Subject

Since reading plays such a crucial role in a Charlotte Mason curriculum, you will likely want to find excellent living books related to the range of subjects that your learners study. For this reason, it may be helpful to search books by subject area or theme, rather than just by age.

One of the best sources I’ve found for this type of search is a site called Stories of Color. Once you set up a free account, you can browse diverse texts on a huge variety of topics organized by genre, themes, cultural references, religions, geography, historical events, and more. The site also includes options for audiobooks as well as Spanish language and bilingual texts, making the Mason approach more accessible to learners with diverse needs and backgrounds. 

Another option for browsing by subject is the CM Bookfinder from Simply Charlotte Mason. This tool allows you to search a database of over 1500 pre-selected living books by your choice of keyword or tag.

Here are some Charlotte Mason book lists recommendations by subject:

Charlotte Mason History Books

The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History

Charlotte Mason Literature Books

The Chronicles of Narnia

Charlotte Mason Science Books

Handbook of Nature Study

Charlotte Mason Geography Books


Tips for Creating Your Own Charlotte Mason Book List

Timeless classics are timeless for a reason, and exposure to well-known stories that serve as cultural reference points can be relevant throughout life. That being said, time marches forward and we don’t want to discount new texts and authors who share meaningful, relatable works for today’s readers.

One of the best ways to incorporate more contemporary works into your Charlotte Mason book list is to create your own collection using a few basic principles and tools. 

When evaluating a text, try reading a few passages out loud. The language should be harmonious, charming, and enjoyable to listen to. Read reviews and blurbs to determine whether the themes and characters resonate with you and your family. Utilize sites like The Story Graph, which labels texts by mood, pace, and other useful criteria. 

You might also try one of my favorite sites, What Should I Read Next?  This site allows you to search for books that are similar to a text that you already know and love. For example, you could search for books that someone who loved Charlotte’s Web, Treasure Island, or another Mason-approved classic might enjoy.

What Should I Read Next will list suggestions, including information about exactly what the books have in common with one another. 

Here are a few books that come to mind for me when I think of living books that my own child would both enjoy and benefit from:

As far as living books go, wordless picture books take the concept to the next level.  A great wordless picture book contains the essence of a story, which can be told and retold in the reader’s own voice as they age and shift focus.

Despite the lack of writing, these books are not twaddle — they prompt creative thinking and skillful storytelling. I recommend Aaron Becker’s wordless trilogy: Journey, Quest, and Return. 

Wrapping Up Charlotte Mason Book Lists

Most curricula in the U.S. today, whether at home or in a school setting, include books. There’s no doubt that literacy skills are critical to our learners, and some would argue that all reading is beneficial to that end. But if you are committed to a Charlotte Mason education, you’ll want to select the most poignant living books you can find. 

You can read with your child for the sake of reading, or you can read to nourish their hearts, minds, and souls. 

If you’re seeking activity books for children that combine education and fun, we invite you to explore our curated collection of reviews.

Best STEM Activities Books reviews

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