Children’s books are seeing a heyday – and adults are loving them too

In our disordered and confusing political times, asks Clare Zinkin, could it be that the child’s sense of wonder at the world is precisely what adults need?

Tuesday 27 November 2018 12:46
Sales of kid lit are up, and it’s not just the young who are doing the reading
Sales of kid lit are up, and it’s not just the young who are doing the reading

The UK children’s book market continues to grow for the fourth consecutive year and is now worth £383m, with one in every three books sold being aimed at that market. That’s despite the warnings of children’s increased screen time, library cuts, and children’s books’ lack of coverage in newspapers and media campaigns.

Could part of this growth be attributed to adults buying the books not for their children but for themselves? It’s long been acknowledged that young adult (YA) books are not just for teens – in 2014 nearly one third of YA books were purchased by readers aged 30-44 years – but it seems that children’s picture books, nonfiction and general fiction are appealing to adults too. Children’s author Chitra Soundar recently called out for a dedicated book club for adults who read children’s books, and author Dave Eggers, who writes for both adults and children, admitted that “there are so many great books for young readers that really aren’t just for young readers”.

The children who, 27 years ago, read The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson, are now adults who can read My Mum Tracy Beaker, published last month by Doubleday. Although told from the perspective of Tracy’s daughter Jess, it is aimed at adults too: “A knowing teenager or an adult will read something and understand it, while it will go straight over Jess’s head.” Wilson told The Observer.

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