Dickens tops chart as classic tales remain a hit with parents

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens' 1843 classic in which the stingy Ebenezer Scrooge discovers the generous Christmas spirit, is the book parents most want to pass on to their children, according to a new poll.

Almost one in five parents surveyed by the University of Worcester plumped for the spooky Christmas ghost story, but Dickens scored again in the top 10. Oliver Twist, his 1838 tale about an orphan who falls in with a gang of child pickpockets led by the irrepressible Artful Dodger, came eighth.

Nineteenth and 20th-century classics make up nine of the top 10 lifetime essential reads for children, as chosen by parents, with JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, at No 2, the only contemporary novel. JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1955) is No 3. The Hobbit (1937) is ninth; Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen, Alice in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) by C S Lewis, George Orwell's Animal Farm (1945) and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) complete the choices of the 2,000 adults surveyed. It was compiled to mark the opening of the Hive, Europe's first joint university and public library, a £60m venture between the university and Worcestershire County Council, with £40m of the cost being provided through a private finance initiative.

While many parents said they struggled to read as much as they would like to, the survey found that they wanted to pass their literary tastes on to their children. Jane Austen, JRR Tolkien and Charles Dickens also were cited as favourite authors for adults.

Anne Hannaford, director of Information and Learning Services at the University of Worcester, said: "It is interesting to see that most of the popular books to pass down the generations have strong moral messages entwined in them."