Charlotte Mason on Living Literature vs Twaddle
Living literature is critical when instructing children. Living literature is the type of literature that ignites the imagination. Children are able to see the scene they are reading in their minds’ eye. Their imagination is on fire! It is rich in vocabulary and causes children to wrestle with big ideas.
The text that is filled with living literature, exposes the child to characters that display heroism and self-sacrifice. These are the character traits that we want our children to emulate. Charlotte Mason believed children are wired to take in challenging thoughts and ideas. Children thrive on living literature.
What is Twaddle?
Let’s take a moment and try to define what twaddle is. Those that have been in the Charlotte Mason circle for some time are comfortable with the term but what exactly is twaddle? Charlotte would use words like silly, easy to read, unintelligent when describing Twaddle.
It is literature that does not value the intelligence of our children. When a child reads a book full of twaddle, there is little to struggle with. Everything is pre-digested. There is no growth happening when in books that are considered twaddle.
Is There a Difference Between Living Literature vs Twaddle?
There is a huge difference between living literature and twaddle. Click To Tweet The textbook versions and anthologies are what Charlotte Mason would call “twaddle” or “predigested” texts. Another characteristic of twaddle is short choppy sentences as well as dry facts. Allow me to share with you two renditions of One of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. The title of the story is HOW THE WHALE GOT HIS THROAT
Notice the Difference Between Living Literature vs Twaddle.
The first paragraph in the living version reads: In the sea, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there was a Whale, and he ate fishes. He ate the starfish, and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel and the really truly twirly-whirly eel. All the fishes he could find in all the sea he ate with his mouth–so! Till at last there was only one small fish left in all the sea, and he was a small ‘Stute Fish, and he swam a little behind the Whale’s right ear, so as to be out of harm’s way. Then the Whale stood up on his tail and said, ‘I’m hungry.’ And the small ‘Stute Fish said in a small stute voice, ‘Noble and generous Cetacean, have you ever tasted Man?
Compare the Same Paragraph but in ‘Predigested’ Form.
Once upon a time, there was a giant Whale who lived deep in the sea. He was always hungry, and more than anything he loved to eat fish of all different kinds: mackerel, salmon, tuna, crab, octopus, squid, eel, and more. He ate and ate, until there was only one fish left in the whole sea! Luckily, the Last Fish in the sea was a clever one. Before the hungry Whale could chase him, the Last Fish took a bow and asked, “Oh, mighty Whale, have you ever tasted man? I had much more fun reading the first version! How about you?
We Prefer Living Literature
The child that is exposed to the first paragraph is going to enjoy it more and have more questions which will stretch the mind. Even if the story is read to the child, the child, and the adult will enjoy the experience far more when reading the living version. What a wonderful experience for the child to stretch the mind and struggle with questions and ideas after having read the living version.
Not only is the living literature version of the story more fun to read but it is also more engaging with its complex, lyrical sentences. A child would find it easier to picture the scene in his mind’s eye after having read the living literature version. I’m sure you can imagine a variety of learning experiences that could be engaged in with the living version.
Let’s delve even deeper in the area of living literature and Charlotte Mason’s ideas. Come along for the ride. I encourage you to share your thoughts and encounters with living literature. It will be a great adventure! Do you have any favorite stories that inspired you? What are some literary pieces that ignite your imagination? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.