76% of British children value reading, but classic reads in decline

Toy and book seller OnBuy.com took to analysing 2018 reading data from YouGov* to determine which classic books are no longer cherished, and which 21st century children’s classics may replace forgotten titles in 2018.

OnBuy found Robert Louis Stephenson’s timeless classic Treasure Island has seen the steepest decline in readership of all the books listed by 6-17-year-olds – with as little as 19% choosing to pick up the title. Overall, half of adults (49%) have read the book – including 80% of those aged over 65 and 73% of those aged 55-64.

Other traditional reads have seen a similar decline. The Wind in the Willows, written by Kenneth Graeme, has been read by 48% of adults but only 23% of children. This is comparable to Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland and/or its sequel Through the Looking Glass, whereby just a third (32%) of children have read either book compared to many adults – at 52%.

Nearly half of children (48%) say they have read a children’s novel by Enid Blyton (whose series included the Famous Five and the Secret Seven), but this is notably lower than the 70% of adults who have done the same – including 81-82% of those aged 50+. Children's reading classics are in decline

Other titles more likely to be read by adults than children include The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkein, the Swallow and Amazons books, written by Arthur Ransome and the Chronicles of Narnia books, by C.S. Lewis.

The data also proves a gender divide in readership. Over eight in ten girls (82%) and women (89%) say they like to read books quite a lot or a lot, compared to around seven in ten (71%) boys and two thirds (67%) of men.

Still Treasured

Perhaps unsurprisingly, novels by Roald Dahl and JK Rowling remain widely read by children. More than eight in ten children (83%) have read at least one of Dahl’s books, compared to 71% of adults, and 56% of children have read one or more of the Harry Potter books, compared to just 44% of adults.

The Mr Men and Little Miss books, written by Roger Hargreaves, remain popular with both young and old readers – with three quarters of kids (74%) having read one, as well as 68% of adults.

Other titles more likely to be read by children than adults include the Goosebumps books, by R.L. Stine and the Alex Rider books, by Anthony Horowitz.

AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books have a similar degree of consistent readership, with 51% of children and 57% of adults saying they have read about the adventures of Pooh Bear and friends at one time or another.

The New Classics

Inspired, OnBuy.com took to identifying 10 new Children’s Classics to note, utilising data available from goodreads.com, judged by novels with the highest vote.

  1. Isle of Winds by James Fahy. 
  2. Drowned Tomb by James Fahy.
  3. Chains of Gaia by James Fahy.
  4. Peter: A Darkened Fairy-tale by William O’Brien.
  5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
  6. The Magic of Finkleton by K.C. Hilton.
  7. The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan.
  8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
  9. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
  10. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

Cas Paton, managing director of OnBuy.com comments: “Though it’s exciting to see new children’s classics in the pipeline, it is with a tinge of sadness that traditional texts aren’t as popular now. It’s important to encourage our children to read, whatever the book, but we should make a commitment to mix the old with the new, to ensure our children benefit from the best of both worlds. Timeless classics should not be forgotten.”

*The research compiles data from two surveys – one of children aged 6-17 and one of adults – asking which of a selection of classic and contemporary children’s books they had ever read.

To boost reading with some amazing titles, see www.onbuy.com.


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