According to new reader research animals and nature are top page-turners for children across generations. The research reveals that animals and nature are the favourite reading topics for both children and their parents.
The research, commissioned to coincide with over 1.3 million books being given to 4 – 5 year-old children as part of the Booktime programme, found that animals are the favourite subject matter for more than half (52%) of children. 49% of parents also said animals were their favourite thing to read about when they were growing up, suggesting that books with animal characters and environmental themes are enjoyed across the generations.
Booktime’s research, which polled over 1,500 parents and carers across the UK, also showed that reading books featuring animal characters motivates children to find out more about the natural world: 44% of children are inspired to want to go to a farm, zoo or safari park to see the animals for themselves. 90% of respondents stated that reading books about animals increases their child’s interest in the natural world and more than half of Britain’s parents report that their children are more inquisitive about animals and nature after reading a book on the subject.
One of the reasons for this enduring call of the wild was hinted at elsewhere in the research with parents and carers overwhelmingly agreeing that animal and nature themed books help their children to make sense of human feelings, relationships and the world around them.
- 42% of parents say that reading about animals and the natural world inspires their children to read more books. This figure rises to 48% in the North East.
- 97% of parents find that reading books encourages their child to talk with them about new things.
- 67% of parents find family discussions useful in exploring their children’s questions about the natural world: 58% turn to books for answers.
- 92% of parents and carers feel that reading books where animals are the main characters can help children to make sense of human feelings, experiences and relationships.
- 90% of parents state that reading books about animals increases their child’s interest in the natural world. Parents in the North West are most likely to agree, with 93% stating books increase their children’s interest in the wider world – this is the highest in the UK.
“I love all animals, and have since I was a boy when I used to go on walks with my father. I hope that my books can help children to develop a love of the natural world so that they will treasure and care for their environment. I am happy to be working with Booktime to inspire a love of reading that will lead children to engage with their world and every living thing in it.”
Researchers asked parents to tell them some of the most difficult and funny questions they had been posed by their children and the responses ranged from the challenging to the funny to the downright bizarre:
Why is the sky blue?
Why is water wet?
Do dolphins drink water?
Why are there no dinosaurs anymore?
How high can cows jump?
How does the moon stay in the sky?
Was the orange named after the colour, or the colour after the fruit?
Why doesn’t the dog use the toilet?
Was the world in black and white when you were young?
Can I be a vampire when I grow up?
Do you need a passport to travel to the moon?
Geraldine Taylor’s Why is the Sky Blue? is a compilation of questions asked by inquisitive children; a special shortened edition of the title was produced specifically for Booktime.
Animal character books featured in the research as the favourite books for both children and adults, with one of Eric Carle’s classic titles appearing on both lists:
Children’s favourite books 2010 1. The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson
2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
3. Peppa Pig – Ladybird Books
4. Mr Men series – Roger Hargreaves
5. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen
Parents’ favourite children’s books (when they were 5 years old)
1. Mr Men series – Roger Hargreaves
2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
3. The Snowman – Raymond Briggs
4. Thomas the Tank Engine – Wilbert Awdry
5. Just So Stories – Rudyard Kipling
As well as inspiring inquisitiveness and intellectual curiosity, books help to fuel children’s interest in interacting with the natural world. After reading books about or featuring animals, nearly half of 10 year olds ask for a pet while 17% of children say they would like to be a vet when they grow up.
World famous primatologist Jane Goodall who wrote the foreword to “Slowly Slowly, Slowly,” Said the Sloth:
“I’m told I was already watching insects and in love with our dog from before I could talk. Mum got books about animals knowing I would learn to read quickly in order to read them! Reading is so good for the imagination. When I was a child there was no TV and books were the only window to the wide world. Today it is even more important to stimulate the imagination. My mother always told me that if I was disappointed or sad, I could go into another world through reading. It still, for me, is a way of experiencing another world.”
To help encourage a lifelong love of reading, 1.36 million free books will be given to schoolchildren in England through the free books programme Booktime, administered by independent literary charity Booktrust in partnership with Pearson. The programme promotes reading for pleasure at an important transition stage in children’s learning and development.
Inspired by Bookstart, the free books programme for babies and toddlers, Booktime will distribute 680,000 book packs to children in over 17,000 primary schools across England. Over 25,000 resource packs will be given to schools and libraries in England to support the programme.
Geraldine Taylor, author of Why is the Sky Blue? and BBC Wildlife Writer of the Year 2000:
“As a mother and wildlife author, and as a mental health professional, I know how important wildlife is to us all. We have to love the planet, and know things about it, in order to be committed to helping it in realistic ways. In my wildlife work with children and families, I’ve noticed that it’s the small details that captivate the curiosity; the melody of a blackbird; the way that rabbits’ ears move; watching bees weigh down the petals of flowers to make a landing stage. Books are a gateway to learning so much more about the world. It is this lively curiosity and joy of discovery that Why is the Sky Blue? celebrates.”