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Kid Lit Nostalgia

A Survey of 2,000 Americans Found...

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • April 26, 2022

The first week in May is Children's Book Week, an annual event promoting childhood literacy. As we all know, reading with young children expands their imagination and introduces them to new concepts, ideas, language, and experiences. To celebrate, we enlisted OnePoll to survey 2,000 Americans about their favorite childhood books. And we got a pretty sweet story out of it too! Here are some of the primary lessons we learned.

1. Our favorite stories never get old (even though we do!)

For many of us, the comfort and joy of storytime represents some of our most cherished memories, whether as children or as adults, with our own kids. More than half of Americans surveyed said that reading their favorite childhood books transports them back to those formative years—including 62% of people over 77 years old! When asked which kid's books they've picked up again in adulthood, some of the top choices included:

2. We remember every word of our favorites

"At the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows and the wind smells slow and sour when it blows." Do you recognize these lines? Our survey found that half of the respondents said they can still recite their favorite childhood books word for word. When asked to name their most treasured and memorable reads, popular choices included:

3. Characters from these books are like family to us

Poll-takers said that what they loved most about reading as a child was imagining that the fictional characters and worlds were real. Truth be told, many of us became quite attached to the characters in our favorite books. Specific figures that people named as especially relatable included:

4. Reading shapes who we are

Beyond just learning, reading can contribute to our values and ethos. Popular books from certain eras become a part of the zeitgeist for entire generations of people. In our polling, we asked people what character traits they most identified with from their childhood books. Topping the list were adventurous (52%), kind (50%), and loving (48%).

We were somewhat surprised to learn that 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 of those surveyed said they related most to children's book characters who looked like them.

5. Reading makes us better people

Books teach us valuable life lessons. 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.

Our take: "Literature can be both an escape and a powerful educational tool. Our results show books are often the first place where people learned about such concepts as kindness, honesty, sharing, cooperation, and bullying."

6. Childhood readers become adult readers

Our experiences in childhood set the stage for the rest of our lives. More than seven in ten of those surveyed (73%) said their parents read to them at bedtime, with an average of five books each night. According to 69% of Americans, reading books as a child helped them learn to appreciate literature more in adulthood.

Our take: "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. Adults can also keep the joy of reading alive by exploring fresh takes on familiar classics."

Here are some of our latest recommendations for the kids in your life:

As always, we love hearing from you. So let us know if you have any thoughts on what our survey revealed in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram where we share daily book recommendations, literary tidbits, and more.

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