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Americans rank their favorite children’s books

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Young female child reading encyclopedia in a home made livingroom tent with light balls.
(Photo by True Touch Lifestyle via Shutterstock)

More than half (54%) of Americans say they transport themselves back to their childhoods by reading the books they loved as kids — including 62% of people over 77 years old.

A new survey asked 2,000 U.S. adults about their favorite picture books in childhood and found that Stan Berenstain’s “The Berenstain Bears” books came out on top with 31%.

Other popular picks included “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein (30%), “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter (30%) and “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown (29%).

In the realm of chapter books, respondents cited “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll (24%), “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder (23%) and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl (22%).

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of ThriftBooks, the survey also found that half (50%) still claim to remember every line from their favorite children’s book, with millennials the most likely to say so (56%).

When asked which kid’s books they’ve picked up again in adulthood, people named “Beauty and the Beast,” the “Harry Potter” series by J. K. Rowling, “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss and “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White, among others.

Relatable characters that stuck with readers included Encyclopedia Brown, Harry Potter, Peter Pan, Frodo Baggins, Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking.

“Adventurous” (52%) and “kind” (50%) were the book character traits people related to most. Men were more likely than women to relate to generous characters (42% vs. 32%). Meanwhile, millennials were much more likely than Gen X to relate to characters who are brave (52% vs. 38%), generous (45% vs. 29%) and loyal (47% vs. 33%).

One-third said they related the most to children’s book characters that looked like them.

What did people love most about reading books as a child? Imagining the fictional characters and worlds were real (42%), getting lost in the story (35%) and looking at the artwork (35%).

Books have also taught many a valuable life lesson. According to respondents, the most important of these were to “always be friendly,” that “every living thing has feelings,” to “laugh at your mistakes,” and “to be true to yourself and not be swayed by social pressure.”

“Literature can be both an escape and a powerful educational tool,” said a spokesperson for ThriftBooks. “Our results show books are often the first place where people learned about such concepts as kindness (38%), honesty (34%), sharing (33%), cooperation (30%) and bullying(24%).”More than seven in 10 (73%) said their parents read to them each night when they were kids, with the average respondent listening to five books a night.

And according to 69%, reading books as a child helped them learn to appreciate literature more in adulthood.

“Books clearly play an important role during the childhood years and have a lasting effect into adulthood.  As we head into summer, it is important for children to find fun incentives to continue reading. Reading challenges can include incentives for both students and adults to pick up more books during the summer months,” the spokesperson added. “Adults can also keep the joy of reading alive by exploring fresh takes on familiar classics.”


  • Ma Ingalls from “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 33%
  • Marmee from “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott - 29%
  • Molly Weasley from the “Harry Potter” series by J. K. Rowling - 29%
  • Charlotte from “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White - 29%
  • Dr. Kate Murry from “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle - 28%
  • Raksha from “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling - 28%
  • Mrs. Quimby from the “Ramona” series by Beverly Cleary - 28%


  • The Evil Queen from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” - 40%
  • Lady Tremaine aka the Wicked Stepmother from “Cinderella” - 37%
  • Petunia Dursley from the “Harry Potter” series by J. K. Rowling - 35%
  • The Stepmother from “Hansel and Gretel” - 35%
  • The Other Mother from “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman - 33%
  • Mrs. Wormwood from “Matilda” by Roald Dahl - 32%
  • The Sorceress from “Rapunzel” - 27%

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