Field Guides as Living Books

A field guide ~ that handy little book (or big book, as the case may be) that tells you factually exactly what you need to know about what you wanted to know about.


Not exactly what we think of when we think living books. Living books for me usually encompass thoughts about a really great story that captures my heart and emotions…ties me to a piece of knowledge, whether that be history or science or art or music or even math. Isn’t that the Charlotte Mason way?

It is, but oh can it be so much more!

Around this house it is the field guides that are the beloved books that steal my children’s hearts. It is the field guides that are in tatters with missing covers and a few torn pages, well-worn from the turning and turning that happens to them. It is the field guides that my children will turn to over and over that lead to the most interesting discussions and interest-led learning opportunities. It is the pictures that capture their imagination at the pre-reading level and then grow with them as they enter into the reading fold. It is the realist that touches them as their natural curiosity is insatiable.

And it was the same for me when I was a child. Yes, I remember falling in love with Laura Ingalls and Nancy Drew and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But, really, it was the Golden Guide’s pocket book on butterflies that captured me and stirred up my heart for later adult hobbies. So why shouldn’t it be the same for my children?

After all, Charlotte did say ~

…knowledge, that is, roughly, ideas clothed upon with facts, is the proper pabulum for mind. This food a child requires in large quantities and in great variety. The wide syllabus I have in view is intended in every point to meet some particular demand of the mind.   ~A Philosophy of Education p. 256.

And our favorite field guides around here:

Encyclopedia of Animals,9780681460249

Borders bargain at $9.99!

Hammond’s Animal Atlas

The same from my childhood with a new spiffy cover!

As well as all the other Golden Guide Pocket Books…especially the Pond Life

(Although, I personally like the older shabby chic cover better.)

Of course, we all remember this review! Great book, great bargain!

Extensive and up to date! Another Borders bargain!

(find here used at Amazon)

Universe…what can I say except this is a must see book! (another Borders bargain)

It takes you across our galaxy from stars to planets and moons to meteors all in the order of how many light years away from earth it is. And the pictures are phenomenal. One of my personal faves!

Visual Dictionary…bargain for us at Barnes and Nobles and now you can get it bargain priced as used!

Smithsonian’s Rock and Gem

Animal Tracks and Signs: Track Over 400 Animals From Big Cats to Backyard Birds

Animal Tracks & Signs…a gift from Grandma!

(The poop quiz is their favorite, of course!)

Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Birds

I think we use this one on almost a daily basis in the spring time! And the diminutive size means it is constantly getting lost as little hands snatch it and carry it around in pockets and purses.

The Bird Songs Anthology…which they’ve looked at so much that we’ve had to glue the sound part on several times and now we just set it in with the stuffed birds basket. Most listened to bird? The ptarmigan. This erupts in giggles for hours! (And the giggling is contagious…just to warn you! Don’t believe me? Go hear for yourself!)

Field Guide to Wildflowers

(native to our forests in Nebraska…will update later with a picture since I can’t find one online)

Trees of North America

One of the best identifying books ever whether you have a pinecone, a leaf, a piece of bark or a tree seed. Real time pictures of each part of the tree…just flip pages until you see what you’re holding in your hand from that nature walk!

And, of course, we can’t forget the Crinkleroot Guides! I don’t think there is a book alive by him that we don’t love!

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13 thoughts on “Field Guides as Living Books

  1. Wow…loved seeing all your resources. We are a family of field guide readers as well. I keep a few in the car for times we are stuck somewhere and want to page through our birds and trees. 🙂

    I really enjoyed seeing your entry to the CM Carnival.

    • Wow…I must say that, being a HUGE fan of both (Barb and Jimmie) of your sites, I am feeling blessed to have you over to visit! Don’t you just love carnivals? What a wealth of information! I have found over the years that as I accumulate more and actually need less curriculum-wise over the year, the one thing that always makes my list of new book purchases is one or two more really good field guides! Just ordered a few Jim Arnosky books and am thinking of ordering The Material World.

  2. I absolutely agree. Field guides ARE living books. I had some of those Golden Guides too — insects, I remember for one. And my fave was an Audubon rock guide. LOVED that book and still have it. Was talking to a friend this week who said his fave was the Audubon bird book. We both are nature nuts.

  3. How fun! Thank you for sharing this piece of your family’s passion for books and nature. Even though I have the older versions of many of these, the new covers make me want the newer versions!

    Ring true,
    Nancy

  4. Ooh, I want that Photographic Guide to more than 500 Trees of N. America! At a recent library used book sale I found five of the old Golden Guides – you would have thought I was making off with the Hope Diamond as hard as it was to contain my glee. I like that you’ve termed the original covers ‘shabby chic.’

  5. when we first started nature study in earnest, I knew next to nothing… especially considering that Peru is not at all similar to the pacific northwest 😉 SO, field guides have been VERY helpful. We have quite a growing variety as well!

    amy in peru

    PS. thanks for submitting this to the CM blog carnival

  6. I came here via Amy (Fisher Academy)’s blog.
    You are right! I had not thought about Field Guides as living books but I now think they are! My dd LOVES her field guides too and is always looking them up!

    • I know! Now I am starting to be aware of other types of books around my house and paying attention to how they engage my children and really rethinking that what is a living book thing.

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