Page last updated at 09:26 GMT, Friday, 15 January 2010

Twilight leads boost in children's book sales

By Angela Harrison
Education and family reporter, BBC News

Children's Laureate Anthony Browne
Children's Laureate Anthony Browne says some children are never read to

The Twilight series of vampire books by Stephenie Meyer has boosted the sale of children's books and sales of picture books are also up.

Children's books are looking healthy in a market which is shrinking slightly in the recession.

Annual figures from Nielson BookScan show children's book sales in 2009 were up 4.9% in volume and picture book sales were up by 13% on 2008.

Children's Laureate Anthony Browne says he is incredibly pleased and surprised.

Latest figures for the book sector as a whole from Nielson BookScan show UK book sales are down 0.5% in terms of volume and down 1.2% in terms of value.

More than 60 million children's books were sold in the UK last year (excluding text books), bringing in £293m to the book industry.

The Twilight books of modern-day vampires (various editions) by Ms Meyer take the five top slots in a list of the 100 children's best sellers for last year.

Altogether, last year the Meyer books added up to £29.3m in sales - 10% of the total children's book sales, according to Nielson BookScan, which compiles the best-seller lists for several national newspapers.

Top 5 - all Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series - various editions
6 - Beano Annual 2010
7 - Miles to go by Mylie Cyrus
8 - Mr Gum in the Hound of Lamonic Bibber /Sephir the Storm Monster by Andy Stanton and Adam Blade
9 - Peppa Pig official annual
10 - New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
11 - Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K Rowling

There have been many campaigns in recent years aimed at encouraging reading across the ages and particularly at getting parents to enjoy picture books with their babies and toddlers to give them a love of books at an early age.

Last year was the National Year of Reading and World Book Day, held in March, has become an annual event many schools take part in.

As part of World Book Day, £1 book vouchers are given to school children and some books are released for £1.

One of those - a "two books in one" - was the number eight best-selling children's book for last year: Mr Gum in the Hound of Lamonic Bibber/Sephir the Storm Monster by Andy Stanton and Adam Blade.

Campaigners - and publishers - are hoping that the message is getting through.

Library boost

Library lending of children's titles is also up according to the Reading Agency, a charity which promotes reading.

The group's director Miranda McKearney says while library lending as a whole has fallen, there has been an increase in the numbers of children's books lent in the past "three or four years".

Libraries have been staging more events designed to draw children in, she said, such as "meet- the-author" sessions, and have been working more closely with book publishers.

The best picture books leave a tantalising gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader's imagination
Anthony Browne, Children's Laureate

She said: "There has been a big investment in really changing children's library services and maybe we are starting to see the effects of that.

"All the research shows that readers buy and borrow, that there is a relationship between buying and borrowing."

In helping to stage events which changed libraries from places which "just have books in a row", publishers were also gaining a "no-risk free-trial for published products", she said.

And with the recession, more people are "remembering libraries loan books", she said.

Children's Laureate Anthony Browne says he is "incredibly pleased and surprised" by news of rising lending rates of children's books and increased children's book sales.

The award-winning author and illustrator of children's books including Gorilla and Willy the wimp wants to encourage more children to discover and love reading.

"I am particularly pleased that picture books are doing better because there is nothing quite like them and I had felt that they had been marginalised, with parents thinking they had to move on to 'proper books'", he said.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Tyrannosaurus Drip Song by Julia Donaldson
Stick Man by Julia Donaldson
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sandak
The Gurffalo's Child by Julia Donaldson

"They were forgetting how much children enjoy the combination of words and pictures."

He believes the best picture books "leave a tantalising gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader's imagination, adding so much to the excitement of reading a book".

The Children's Laureate said he had visited schools where head teachers told him probably none of their pupils had ever had a story read to them at home.

"It was a really big thing for them to meet an author. It was quite touching and I felt a lot of wonder and enthusiasm from them - which is not always the case.

"I have visited schools where heads have boasted about the reading ages of their pupils but where there was a lack of creativity and enthusiasm."


Bringing a love of books and reading to young children is also one of the aims of a new pre-school television series called Driver Dan's Story Train, which began on the Cbeebies channel on Saturday.

In the programme an animated character - Driver Dan - has adventures with various other characters.

The train's destination is always "book corner", where real children are waiting and where he chooses "just the right book" for the occasion.

Driver Dan's Story Train image
Driver Dan's Story Train always goes to story corner

After hearing the story, the children talk about it and about what happened earlier in the programme.

The programme's creator Rebecca Elgar says she hopes the programme might encourage parents to have a routine which involves enjoying a book with their children by de-mystifying the experience.

"There are people who have never had a book experience. They think its not for them, that books are just something their children will have to do in school," she said.

Research showed, she said, the importance in a child's development of their enjoying stories and talking about what they had seen and heard.

She believes the list of the top 100 books shows that when it comes to buying books for young children, people often opt for tried and tested favourites.

"People are buying books as gifts and they want to know what they are getting," she said.

High on the list are The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, The Beano and Peppa Pig annuals and Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sandak.

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