The Formula to Nurturing a Well-rounded Child

Classic children's adventure books such as Swallows & Amazons and Famous Five were revealed as having the greatest impact on our personalities and interests as we develop into adults. A survey that we have recently conducted has revealed that the kind of books we choose to read as children have a clear impact on the personality traits and interests we develop as adults.

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One thousand UK respondents aged between 18 and 65 were asked to select one of a number of children's book groups, which most accurately described their reading tastes as children. Next, they were asked to select three personality traits and three hobbies that best described how they are, and what they enjoy now. The data was then analysed to determine trends and patterns, and found that children's adventure books such as Swallows and Amazons had the biggest impact on our adult personalities, followed by more serious titles such as Anne Frank.

People who read fantasy titles such as The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter were the most likely to describe themselves as imaginative (25.4%) and have an interest in astronomy (6.8%), whereas people who read soft horror/gore titles such as Goosebumps and Horrible Histories were most likely to consider themselves to be brave (14.7%) and enjoy spirituality/ghost hunting (12%).

Readers of fun, imagination books such as The Cat in the Hat revealed themselves to be the cheekiest (14.4%) and wittiest (15.6%) and have the greatest interest in gaming (23.3%), whereas people who read more serious titles such as The Diary of Anne Frank and War Horse were most likely to say that their leading personality traits were honesty (50%) followed by intellect (25%). They also proved themselves to be the most charitable, with 19% of readers citing volunteering as an interest.

Fans of classic adventure books such as Swallows & Amazons, Famous Five etc. described themselves as handy/resourceful (22%) and law-abiding (24.9%), and expressed the greatest interest in puzzles (21.7%).

The study also analysed book selection by city: with The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Winnie-the-Pooh and Paddington Bear most popular in Edinburgh (27%) in contrast to The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia etc. in Liverpool (29%) and Swallows & Amazons, Famous Five etc. in Newcastle (22%).

Overall, the data revealed clear correlations between book themes and associated interests/traits, and while less common hobbies/interests such as astronomy, volunteering etc. were not heavily selected across the board, there was an evident association between a heightened level of interest in a more niche hobby, and the reading of a related book group.

The study also acknowledged the benefits of reading books that spanned a variety of genres in order to develop an interest in a broad range of hobbies, and guide young readers towards adopting traits that would help ensure a well-rounded personality. Parents who may wish their children to be intellectual but honest, sporty, compassionate and witty could, for example, encourage the reading of Winnie the Pooh, Famous Five, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Cat in the Hat and Charlotte's Web.

Sue Palmer, literacy specialist and author of many books on child development (including Toxic Child and 21st Century Boys) said: "It is not surprising that favourite books from childhood affect our personalities as we grow older. Not only are stories emotionally and intellectually stimulating, but reading, or even listening to a book read aloud, engages our attention in a very active way. So when mum or dad shares a favourite book as a bedtime story, it's a special experience. And when children discover their own favourites, it's like making new friends.

Screen-based entertainment, like TV or a computer game, tends to be a transitory experience. But good books live on in children's minds, affecting the way they think and behave. And for parents, there's the reassurance that children's fiction is written for children, by people who care about their welfare, so the influence it exerts is hugely positive.

Claudia Mody, Children's Book Buying Director at Book People said: "We know that many children have a favourite book genre or type of book, but we were surprised to discover just how much our childhood reading choices shape us in adult life. Encouraging children to read a mix of books is only ever going to have a positive effect on personal development, and they may discover something new that they love!

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    Journey to Hundred Acre Wood with this quality reprint of A.A. Milne's classic stories that have been pored over for generations. Featuring the wonderful original colour illustrations from E.H. Shepard, this enjoyable collection of Winnie-the-Pooh stories is a must-have for every child's - and grown-up's - bookshelf.

    Beautifully presented, this charming book includes the timeless adventures of Pooh Bear and his much-loved friends, and this collectable edition of tales sees the Bear for All Ages get into a tight place, nearly catch a Woozle, and discover the wrong sort of honey - amongst many other things!

    A gift that is sure to be cherished by any young reader.
  • WHQ2 9 years +
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    In War Horse, award-winning children's author Michael Morpurgo allows readers to understand the horror of the First World War by recounting the experiences of a farm horse who is commandeered to join the front line.

    The unbeatable storytelling skills of Michael Morpurgo make War Horse a stunning, unputdownable tale that won't fail to move all readers from 9+. As Steven Spielberg's epic film version gained a whole new audience for this stunning piece of literature, there's never been a better time to read the book.
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    The Tale of Peter Rabbit is the first in Beatrix Potter's series of 23 books.

    It tells the tale of a mischievous young rabbit who narrowly escapes a frightening fate when he ventures into Mr McGregor's vegetable garden.

    With beautiful illustrations and an affectionate and touching storyline, The Tale of Peter Rabbit is totally deserving of its iconic status in children's literature. This book would make a lovely gift for children aged 3 and above.
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    Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl is a haunting book that will stay with the reader for ever. Thirteen-year-old Anne spent two years in hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Her diary combines honesty and humour with typical teenage enthusiasm, but ultimately it's a harrowing and poignant read as it ends abruptly when she and her family are discovered by the Nazis and taken to a concentration camp. Suitable for readers from 11+.

    This children's book has been hand-picked for you by Red House.
  • HOI2 9 years +
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    Likeable and unassuming hero Bilbo Baggins is unwittingly caught up in an epic adventure in one of the most imaginative and captivating children's classics ever written.

    Although Bilbo sets out on his quest for a dragon's gold rather reluctantly, as he is a cautious hobbit who likes a quiet life, his journey helps him find courage, strength and hidden resources that are sure to inspire readers young and old.

    The Hobbit is a fantastic book for confident readers aged 9+, but it's also a great book for parents to read aloud to their child at bedtime, especially with the success of An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug - the first two of Peter Jackson's award-winning trilogy of films based on The Hobbit starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo - bringing the story to a new audience.
  • SAZ2 9 years +
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    Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons has all the key ingredients for a great children's book and has appealed to generations of young readers.

    The story centres on four children who spend their summer holiday sailing and camping in the Lake District with hardly any adults anywhere in sight. The plot thickens as they launch into a fierce competition with two young pirates, also sailing on the lake.

    Swallows and Amazons is an absorbing adventure tale for readers from 9 plus.
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    Michael Bond's lovable, marmalade-loving bear has a huge fan base among young readers and their parents - and with the Paddington film having introduced the polite Peruvian bear to an entire new generation, there has never been a better time to relive the classic adventures of Paddington!

    Having travelled all the way from deepest, darkest Peru, Paddington is rescued by the kindly Brown family, who quickly discover that the charming little bear is a little bit of a trouble-magnet! Paddington's antics are guaranteed to get children aged 7 and over chuckling!

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    From the Rotten Romans to the Terrible Tudors and the Gorgeous Georgians, Horrible Histories 10 Beastly Books is oozing with dreadful jokes, awful anecdotes and frightening facts that are sure to both delight and disgust young readers aged 7 and above.

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    Thanks to C. S. Lewis and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, we suspect countless children have stepped into random wardrobes and held their breath, hoping to be transported to a fantasy world - some of us at Book People certainly have!

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    Presented with stylish new cover art from original illustrator Pauline Baynes that will delight fans of all ages, this is a must-read children's classic; inspiring and imaginative with enduring appeal for readers aged 9 and over.
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    Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat in response to a plea to make first reading books for young children more entertaining and appealing to read. The madcap illustrations and wild exuberance of The Cat in the Hat verses certainly fit the brief, and this picture book version of the rhyming classic introduces the craziness to an even younger audience from 3+. If your youngster loves Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, then they will relish the silly madness of The Cat in the Hat.