2013 Top 10 favourite children’s books

By Aaron Hussey,

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wkar2013_330pxA total of 300,144 children across over 1,605 UK schools read and voted on over 4 million books throughout the 2011/12 school year, and now the results are in, with the top 10 favourite children’s books of 2013 announced today by Renaissance Learning, in the run up toNational Library Day tomorrow, Saturday 9th February.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books continue to prove popular with children, demonstrating two key trends in this year’s top 10 books; books with a fantasy or adventure theme to them, and books which have had success on-screen.  Overall, the honour of the most popular title goes to the first book in Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series.

However, perennial classics from the likes of Roald Dahl (Matilda, The BFG) and Allan Ahlberg (The Jolly Postman) are notable by their absence from the top 10; although according to separate but related data showing the most read (as opposed to most popular) books,  they remain some of the most widely read books by UK children.

Key trends:

  • Fantasy and adventure – books with a fantasy or adventure theme appear in eight out of the top 10 spots, with vampires, wizards and mythology all proving popular subjects. Examples include Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (ranked 7th most popular book), The Morganville Vampires (1st place), Twilight (3rd place) and Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth (8th place).

“Fantasy and adventure definitely seem to be the dominant themes this year, and in many cases, books with these themes also cover quite advanced topics and issues. There are strong indications that this trend will continue too, as new authors look set to sustain it for some time.” Dirk Foch, Renaissance Learning’s Managing Director, comments. 

  • Classics missing from top ten – Classic titles from the likes of Roald Dahl (Matilda, The BFG) and Allan Ahlberg (The Jolly Postman) are completely missing from the kids’ choice top 10, but do still feature in the broader list of most read authors (Roald Dahl takes first place whilst Allan Ahlberg takes seventh).

“This is a very interesting point – it indicates that there is a big difference between the books children enjoy reading and the books that are available to them or the books they are encouraged to read by adults. It’s clear that although books such as the Roald Dahl classics may still be very prevalent in schools, children’s tastes have very much moved on and it’s TV, film and vampires that are currently in vogue.” 

  • On-screen proves popular on-page – Half of the top 10 books have risen to fame on-screen (Harry Potter x 2, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Twilight, Crocodile Tears) suggesting that watching films and TV is inspiring children to then read the books, which they subsequently enjoy more than other books.

“In some cases it seems to take time for on-screen popularity to feed through to on-page popularity, but the trend is likely to continue, with early indications showing that The Hunger Games books (the first film was released in 2012) are proving very popular amongst children.”

  • Series – The success of book series is very marked, with all of the top 10 being part of series of one or more books.

“This is particularly encouraging to see, because series provide children with a far greater level of engagement with reading. In many cases, and this trend is particularly marked in boys,children are highly motivated to complete the series. Boys in particular tend to focus to finishing the entire series, partly because of the competitive element.” – Dirk Foch, Managing Director, Renaissance Learning.

Barbara Band, Vice President of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and a school librarian commented: “Borrowing of children’s fiction from libraries is at a seven year high, with a 0.3% increase this year compared to last, showing that children’s reading is very much alive and thriving. The popularity of books that have seen success on-screen is very encouraging in the sense that TV and film is proving to be yet another route of engagement for children to get into reading.

“However, what is abundantly clear is that libraries play a vital role in children’s ability to access books; in the last year, 73% of UK children visited a library, and children’s authors are amongst the most borrowed of all, so it’s vital that we make sure that children continue to have universal access to books to ensure once their appetite in reading is whetted they are able to sustain that interest. School librarians play a key role in children’s enjoyment of books as they are able to guide young readers to the most appropriate level of book whilst taking in to account the national curriculum and of course the individual’s personal preferences.”

The research is taken from Renaissance Learning’s annual ‘What Kids Are Reading’ report, authored by Prof. Keith Topping, Professor of Educational and Social Research at Dundee University, and due to be released in full in early March. It includes data from over 300,000 schoolchildren across academic years 1 – 11 throughout 1,605 UK schools, and more than 4.4 million books 51 billion words were read through the course of the research, which took place over the last academic year.

The full 2013 ‘What Kids Are Reading’ report will be released on 7th March 2013 to coincide with World Book Day, and can be requested from www.readforpleasure.co.uk/wkar2013.