Exclusive: The most popular children’s books in 2020

Harry Potter still cleans up in primary school popularity, but is no longer in secondary pupils' top 10

Adrian Colley

Harry Potter

A study of more than 1.1 million pupils in the UK and Ireland has revealed the 10 most widely read and “favourite” children’s books.

Primary school children picked the seven Harry Potter titles as their favourite books – with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban coming top, the "What kids are reading" report shows. 

Meanwhile, the survey found that eight titles by Jeff Kinney and two by David Walliams were the 10 books proving most "popular" – meaning most likely to be read – by primary children.

For secondary school pupils, the most widely read book was The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan.

This replaced last year’s number one, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which has completely dropped out of the top 40. 

Secondary pupils' favourite book was Gangsta Granny by David Walliams.

No Harry Potter title is now in secondary pupils' top 10 favourite or most-read books.


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The data was collected using software by online assessment provider Renaissance UK, and analysed by University of Dundee academic Professor Keith Topping.

Professor Topping said: “The disappearance of Harry Potter from the secondary schools’ list suggests that primary school children have read them all and none are left for secondary school children. I do not think it reflects any emerging dislike for Harry Potter books among secondary-age children.

The report also features data provided by the National Literacy Trust from its annual survey. It finds that reading for pleasure and reading daily are the keys to literacy success.

Children who read for pleasure are nearly three times as likely to read above their expected level compared with their peers who do not, the report states.

The report also finds that many of the favourite books picked by pupils tend to be of appropriate reading difficulty, especially at primary level.

Children in primary and secondary school were found to be reading slightly more than last year, with the average pupil reading 240,599 words, a 1 per cent increase from the previous year.

Boys tend to prefer non-fiction, especially in secondary schools. However, non-fiction books were not read or understood by either gender as well as fiction books.

Favourite books in primary schools

Rank Book (position last year in brackets) Author Number of votes
1 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (3) JK Rowling 13,626
2 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1) JK Rowling 12,032
3 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (4) JK Rowling 10,598
4 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2) JK Rowling 8,935
5 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (6) JK Rowling 5,949
6 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (5) JK Rowling 5,767
7 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (7) JK Rowling 4,696
8 Dork Diaries: birthday drama! Rachel Rene Russell 2,966
9 The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins 2,003
10 Point Blanc (10) Anthony Horowitz 2,002

 

Favourite books in secondary schools

Rank

Book (position last year in brackets)

Author

Number of votes

1

The Blood of Olympus

Rick Riordan

1,694

2

Ready Player One (3)

Ernest Cline

1,574

3

Frozen Charlotte (2)

Alex Bell

817

4

Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light

Derek Landy

785

5

Forest of Secrets

Erin Hunter

784

6

Brisingr

Christopher Paolini

724

7

Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead

Rick Riordan

703

8

Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Jenny Han

693

9

Inheritance (10)

Christopher Paolini

688

10

Into the Wild

Erin Hunter

588

 

Most popular books within primary schools

Rank Title Author Number of Reads
1 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the meltdown Jeff Kinney 29,909
2 Diary of a Wimpy Kid Jeff Kinney 27,112
3 Gangsta Granny David Walliams 26,180
4 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick rules Jeff Kinney 26,126
5 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: dog days Jeff Kinney 25,744
6 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the ugly truth Jeff Kinney 24,590
7 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the last straw Jeff Kinney 24,355
8 Billionaire Boy David Walliams 23,900
9 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the long haul Jeff Kinney 23,745
10 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: hard luck Jeff Kinney 23,375
11 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: old school Jeff Kinney 23,243
12 The Twits Roald Dahl 23,005
13 The Boy in the Dress David Walliams 21,177
14 The Ice Monster David Walliams 19,860
15 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: cabin fever Jeff Kinney 18,436
16 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the getaway Jeff Kinney 17,930
17 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the third wheel Jeff Kinney 17,660
18 The Magic Finger Roald Dahl 17,013
19 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: double down Jeff Kinney 16,271
20 Ratburger David Walliams 15,572

 

Most popular books within secondary schools

Rank

Title

Author

Number of Reads

1

Gangsta Granny

David Walliams

38,246

2

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the getaway

Jeff Kinney

31,867

3

Wonder

RJ Palacio

31,366

4

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Jeff Kinney

30,135

5

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the meltdown

Jeff Kinney

29,554

6

Billionaire Boy

David Walliams

28,023

7

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick rules

Jeff Kinney

27,986

8

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the long haul

Jeff Kinney

26,668

9

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: dog days

Jeff Kinney

26,131

10

The Boy in the Dress

David Walliams

25,498

11

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Roald Dahl

24,189

12

Mr Stink

David Walliams

23,882

13

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

John Boyne

23,162

14

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: old school

Jeff Kinney

22,771

15

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the last straw

Jeff Kinney

22,237

16

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: hard luck

Jeff Kinney

22,168

17

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the ugly truth

Jeff Kinney

22,088

18

Ratburger

David Walliams

21,094

19

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

JK Rowling

20,991

20

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the third wheel

Jeff Kinney

20,532

 

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Adrian Colley

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