Children’s books – expanding imagination!

As an every-so-slightly doting grannie, I was very interested to read a recent BBC radio poll about which books most adults say every child should read. At the moment I read my granddaughter Grace Winnie the Pooh (the original, not the Disney version) and a lot of Spot the Dog books and ‘noisy’ books that have buttons to press that make different noises! She is not yet three, but I am already planning her future reading, so was interested to see what the top picks were in the poll…

… and it’s no surprise really that the poll suggested 26% of British adults think Harry Potter is the book they think every child should read, closely followed by Roald Dahl’s The BFG.

Top10BooksThe top ten list looks like this:

  • Harry Potter
  • The BFG
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • The Famous Five
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • The Wind in the Willows
  • The Gruffalo
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The Bible

When people were asked why they chose any particular book, the most common answer was because it ‘expands imagination’, followed by the desire to pass on the pleasure they themselves got from reading it. Couldn’t agree more! Books are so wonderful to lose yourself in, whatever your age.

The top choices of books varied across the generations with Harry Potter (35%) and ‘The BFG’ (31%) the runaway favourites among 18-34-year-olds.

However, ‘The Famous Five’ (26%) and ‘The Wind and the Willows’ (25%) are the most common recommendations for those aged 55 plus – ahem, I think that’s me then! I adored ‘The Famous Five’ series and owned every one, and ‘The Wind and the Willows’ had me enchanted, and I still love it today.

To Kill a Mockingbird was chosen because it provides lessons about the world and because it helps to develop good moral character. It wasn’t a book I particularly enjoyed… but each to their own!

The poll showed that for the most part, choices are evenly split between the genders – however, The Famous Five is a more popular recommendation among women (22%) than men (15%), while The Lord of the Rings is more likely to be recommended by men (20%) than women (9%).

I was also thrilled to see that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was listed. I wrote a blog about it in 2015 when it was the 150th anniversary of its publication and, since it was first published, it has never been out of print. It is the most fascinating story, simple and also complex, however you want to read it and a book that most certainly expands imagination.

What were your favourite childhood reads? And what did you read to your children or grandchildren? I’d love to hear!

10 replies
  1. James says:

    I adored The Famous Five when I was younger and loved Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons, Oh and The Railway Children.
    When I was a lot younger there was a series of books called Happy Families and my favourite in the series was Mrs Wobble the Waitress. Oh I have just remembered a series of books called Monty the dog who wears glasses.

  2. Heather says:

    Hi Joanna
    It has to be The Famous Five for me, although I loved reading lots of books I always read the TFF over and over. My imagination would run wild my Granddaughter also loved me reading them to her.
    Hugs x

  3. Chris says:

    I used to love the Just William books and also Jennings & Derbyshire, when I was little. They belonged to my uncle and I was allowed to borrow them and get another on return. I read them so many times. Probably explains why I was always getting into mischief!
    As a granny, I now read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Room on the Broom and various nursery rhyme books to 2 year old Imogen.

  4. Pamela Croston says:

    My favourite reads were without doubt the ‘Famous Five’ and as Joanna, I had every one. I am now 71yrs old and still have one ‘ of my original copies.
    The book my granddaughter loved me to read to her, was ‘Christmas in Puddle Lane’.(not just at Christmas but all year round). Through no fault of her own her copy became ‘lost’. She is now 31yrs old and last year she managed to find a book of stories with this one in. However I would love to be able to find her an original ‘Ladybird ‘Books’ copy. Does anyone out there own one they no longer need? If so I would love to hear from you please. She would be so thrilled.

  5. janetannc says:

    Also an FF fan, and when I was younger, The Folk of the Faraway tree. and other Faraway books.Wasn’t a Noddy fan though. Also loved The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables and What Katy Did (and WKD next). I owned all of these books, but my favourite by far was a set of Arthur Mee’s Encyclopaedia for Children. I read those books avidly and almost every day. I was always delving in for homework projects and then getting lost in other topics -a bit like I still do with Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable today!!

  6. Margaret Bruce says:

    Hi, Joanna! When I was a child, we hadn’t much money so books were scatrce. At primary school, each class got a big box of books and we could have one per week……that only lasted me one evening! There were no thrift shops nor children’s libraries! However, I read as much as I could. Some favourites were Enid Blyton’s adventure series (The Cave of Adventure, The Castle of Adventure etc), Richmal Crompton’s “William” books (I have forty of them now!), Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” series, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” series, Susan Coolidge’s “Katy” books, Elinor Brent-Dyer’s “Chalet School” series and other girls’ school stories, Pilgrim’s Progress, and lots note! For your little grand-daughter, Grace, I would very highly recommend Shirley Hughes’ books…..just right for her age and so beautifully illustrated! For boys, the original “Thomas the Tank Engine” series. Dr Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat” is great fun! That’s a few off the cuff…..I could go on for hours! As for Harry Potter, my personal choice would be to ignore them…..they could give a child a lifelong interest in the occult. I prefer wholesome, character-developing books that are really enjoyable as well as giving a child good standards to live by.

  7. Margaret Bruce says:

    Re the “Katy books by Susan Coolidge”, only three were available during my youth……What Katy did, What Katy did at School and What Katy did next. The fourth and fifth books (Clover, & In the High Valley) are available free for Kindle. Louisa M Alcott’s books are also available on Kindle……there are lots more than the ” Little Women” quartet! Enjoy!

  8. Barbara Johnson says:

    Like you ladies I also loved Famous Five, Secret seven, swallows and Amazonz too. Due to ill health I had much time from school so spent a lot of time reading. Also read the What Katy Did series and as a small child Noddy and anything by Enid Blyton. She wrote stories a child could escape in. Looking forward to seeing you on C&C soon. Sure all will go well.

  9. Sue Carolane says:

    I loved the Jennings and Darbishire books, too, and Famous Five, Secret Seven, all Gerald Durrell’s books – and the Billabong books. (I am Australian.) These were wonderful books set on a sheep and cattle run, but spanned the WW1 years and some were set in Britain as a result. They imparted values of loyalty, love and mateship in wonderful stories. I read them all to my young sons at the dinner table, amongst many other books, because I wanted them to share the books I had loved, even when they were perfectly capable of reading for themselves. I am so glad I did this. The boys, now adult, still refer to some of these books and both are voracious readers.

    One of the most important books I read to them from preschool age was a good alphabet book, so I could make sure they knew the sounds made by each letter of the alphabet. (I am a speech pathologist.) We had a lovely farm alphabet book, which I think was English, and which seems to be out of print. Since then, in my professional life, I haven’t found any that I considered good enough to recommend to parents, so I had to write my own!


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