What are kids reading in 2014

Initial findings reveal children's 'most loved' books are far above their chronological reading age

Preliminary results published today looking at the reading habits of 426,000 children in more than 2,000 UK schools, suggest that far from limiting children’s imagination, it could be that films, computer games and branded products associated with books, may actually encourage children to try more challenging reads.    

Initial findings from the sixth annual ‘What Kids Are Reading’ report, authored by Professor Keith Topping and published by Renaissance Learning, found that almost all of the ‘most loved’ books chosen by children throughout the 2012/13 academic year have been turned into animated films, apps, computer and online games, featuring promotional campaigns.  Children’s books are no longer standalone products. 

The report clearly demonstrates that where children are exposed to highly motivational characters and plots from a wide range of media, they are encouraged to try more challenging books, which are often significantly above their chronological reading age. 

This is particularly evident when it comes to Years 1-5 where children’s most loved book choices are on average 2.4 years above their chronological reading age.

Not only are children’s favourite books above their expected reading age, but according to Renaissance Learning’s quizzing software, which tests children’s detailed comprehension of their chosen books, they are reading with accuracy, and enjoying and understanding these more challenging titles with great success.  Years 1-5 Average Percentage Correct quiz ratings ranged between 88-93%, indicating a high level of understanding. 

Initial results published today, reveal the latest annual chart of children’s most loved books, which is dominated by epic trilogies, dramatic landscapes and challenging themes. The chart is topped by JK Rowling, followed by Suzanne Collins, for her Hunger Games series and J R R Tolkien.  Christopher Paolini also makes the Top Ten, with his Inheritance trilogy, Rick Riordan for Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and Veronica Roth for the Divergent trilogy.




Estimated Reading Age

Joint 1st

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

J. K. Rowling



Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

J. K. Rowling



Catching Fire

Suzanne Collins


Joint 4th


Christopher Paolini



Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

J. K. Rowling


Joint 6th

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

J. K. Rowling



Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

J. K. Rowling



Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

J. K. Rowling



The Hobbit

J. R. R. Tolkien



The Fellowship of the Ring

J. R. R Tolkien



The Lost Hero

Rick Riordan




Veronica Roth



The Fault in our Stars

John Green


The report’s author, Professor Keith Topping comments: “It is wonderful what reading highly motivating books does for children. For the Years 1-5, children are reading favourite books at far above their chronological ability, but still maintaining a high rate of success. ”

Dirk Foch, Managing Director of educational software company Renaissance Learning, which published the report findings said:  “The importance of reading for pleasure and its positive impact on literacy standards cannot be overstated. These results demonstrate that it’s all about motivation and challenge.

“There may also be some good news for parents who are concerned about the dominance of technology in children’s lives.  In an increasingly multi-media world, these findings suggest that technology can support literacy, rather than acting as a distraction.  Children are clearly drawn to the characters, concepts and authors they will have seen in games, films, TV ads and promotional tie ups and if this helps widen and challenge their reading choices, then so much the better.” 

This is the biggest annual study of its kind into British children’s reading habits, with the full report results to be published in February.  This year’s report features the largest participation to date, with 426,067 children taking part, reading 6,544,973 books and a total in excess of 77 billion words.

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