NEW YORK — A new study finds Americans are getting nostalgic for the books of their youth. More than half of Americans (54%) say they transport themselves back to their childhoods by reading their favorite books as kids — including 62 percent of people over 77 years-old.
Best kids’ books of all-time
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 tops the list (31%). Other popular picks include “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 the poll 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.
What makes a good hero?
“Adventurous” (52%) and “kind” (50%) stick out as the character traits people relate to most. Men are more likely than women to relate to generous characters (42% vs. 32%). Meanwhile, millennials are 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 say they relate the most to children’s book characters that look 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%).
Childhood life lessons still stick with us
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,” a spokesperson for ThriftBooks says in a statement. “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%) say their parents read to them each night when they were kids, with the average respondent listening to five books a night. According to 69 percent of the poll, 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 adds. “Adults can also keep the joy of reading alive by exploring fresh takes on familiar classics.”