Being read our favourite bedtime stories can often be a core memory from our childhood. From Willy Wonka’s eccentric tour around his magnificent chocolate factory, to Max’s midnight adventure as King of the Wild Things. There’s no end to the number of mesmerising worlds we can get lost in with our children as they continue to grow and develop their speaking and reading skills.
Some books are catapulted to fame and quickly become much-loved household names, and some even get their moment in the cinema when they’re adapted for the big screen, but which ones are closest to our hearts? We wanted to find out exactly which of our favourite stories spend more time in our children’s hands than on the bookshelf; so we ran the data to discover which ones are being searched for the most in each country around the world.
The UK’s Top 10 Favourite Bedtime Stories
Selling over 100 million copies worldwide, the UK’s favourite bedtime story is the series of children’s books known as Mr. Men. The first ever book was called Mr. Tickle, accompanied by an illustration of a round, orange figure with long arms – an idea that was sparked when author Roger Hargreaves’ son asked him what a tickle looked like.
The second most popular bedtime story in the UK is Alice in Wonderland, a Victorian era fictional story about a little girl that falls down a rabbit hole and enters a mystical world full of mad creatures. The book has since been translated into 174 different languages and has been adapted into works for TV and film numerous times, the 2010 version being directed by the iconic Tim Burton.
Completing the top three favourite bedtime stories for the UK, is Neil Gaiman’s children’s novella Coraline. Converted into a film starring Dakota Fanning as Coraline herself in 2009, the book won numerous awards for Young Readers and the entire character was inspired by a simple typo one day when Gaiman wrote the name Caroline incorrectly.
The rest of the top 10 is made up of other fan favourites for early readers, including classics from Roald Dahl such as Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and more modern works of fiction such as Francesca Simon’s Horrid Henry franchise.
|Rank||Bedtime Story||Author||Year Published||No. of Google Searches|
|1||Mr. Men||Roger Hargreaves||1971||97,700|
|2||Alice in Wonderland||Lewis Carroll||1865||71,800|
|4||Charlie and the Chocolate Factory||Roald Dahl||1964||54,300|
|5||Horrid Henry||Francesca Simon||1994||52,600|
|7||Winnie the Pooh||A. A. Milne||1926||48,100|
|8||Funnybones||Janet & Allan Ahlberg||1980||37,000|
|9||A Christmas Carol||Charles Dickens||1843||36,900|
|10||The Worst Witch||Jill Murphy||1974||35,700|
The World’s Top 50 Favourite Bedtime Stories
The most searched for bedtime story globally is Lewis Carroll’s transcendent telling of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, with Gaiman’s Coraline and Roald Dahl and his recounting of the fictional chocolate factory belonging to Willy Wonka completing the top three.
Other notable stories that made the globally most searched for rankings include childhood classic Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne’s heartwarming tale about a bear and his friends that live in a place called the Hundred Acre Wood; and The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson’s much-loved and beautifully illustrated adventure of a little mouse who encounters a terrifying Gruffalo on a walk through the woods.
J. K. Rowling and Roald Dahl were the two most frequently featured authors in the global rankings, the former with all seven of her Harry Potter books entering the top 50, and the latter with six of his charming children’s books ranking as some of the most loved around the world.
When it comes to what the world is reading to their children, it seems that our classic favourites are going nowhere quickly, with more than 80% of the top 50 having been published prior to the 21st century. Classic stories like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast were published many moons ago, in 1697 and 1740 respectively, and are both still just as popular today, having been transformed into Disney movies that have truly stood the test of time.
|Rank||Bedtime Story||Author||Year Published||No. of Google Searches|
|1||Alice in Wonderland||Lewis Carroll||1865||587,280|
|3||Charlie and the Chocolate Factory||Roald Dahl||1964||419,520|
|5||Winnie the Pooh||A. A. Milne||1926||324,920|
|7||Mr. Men||Roger Hargreaves||1971||288,900|
|8||Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone||J. K. Rowling||1997||271,110|
|9||Artemis Fowl||Eoin Colfer||2001||262,790|
|10||Where the Wild Things Are||Maurice Sendak||1963||240,160|
|11||The Rainbow Fish||Marcus Pfister||1992||231,180|
|14||The Cat in the Hat||Dr. Seuss||1957||203,670|
|15||Pete the Cat||James Dean||2008||193,750|
|16||The Little Prince||Antoine de Saint-Exupéry||1943||190,330|
|17||Treasure Island||Robert Louis Stevenson||1883||189,240|
|18||Peter Pan||James Matthew Barrie||1911||184,770|
|19||Fantastic Mr Fox||Roald Dahl||1970||182,250|
|20||Charlotte’s Web||E. B. White||1952||178,640|
|21||A Christmas Carol||Charles Dickens||1843||172,560|
|22||Anne of Green Gables||L. M. Montgomery||1908||155,800|
|23||Black Beauty||Anna Sewell||1877||154,990|
|24||Horrid Henry||Francesca Simon||1994||151,630|
|25||The BFG||Roald Dahl||1982||151,150|
|26||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows||J. K. Rowling||2007||146,750|
|27||Bridge to Terabithia||Katherine Paterson||1977||144,390|
|28||Mary Poppins||Pamela Lyndon Travers||1934||139,670|
|29||Love You Forever||Robert Munsch||1986||137,150|
|30||Curious George||Margret & H. A. Rey||1941||136,020|
|31||Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets||J. K. Rowling||1998||133,850|
|32||James and the Giant Peach||Roald Dahl||1961||131,540|
|34||Beauty and the Beast||Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve||1740||121,760|
|36||Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire||J. K. Rowling||2000||120,260|
|37||Clifford the Big Red Dog||Norman Bridwell||1963||119,530|
|38||The Gruffalo||Julia Donaldson||1999||106,500|
|39||Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban||J. K. Rowling||1999||105,850|
|40||The Famous Five||Enid Blyton||1942||105,280|
|41||The Worst Witch||Jill Murphy||1974||98,570|
|42||Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince||J. K. Rowling||2005||94,950|
|43||Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix||J. K. Rowling||2003||94,810|
|44||A Little Princess||Frances Hodgson Burnett||1905||90,090|
|45||Oliver Twist||Charles Dickens||1837||87,830|
|46||Funnybones||Janet & Allan Ahlberg||1980||85,240|
|47||Goodnight Moon||Margaret Wise Brown||1947||84,780|
|48||The Witches||Roald Dahl||1983||83,920|
|49||The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe||C. S. Lewis||1950||83,260|
|50||The Snowman||Raymond Briggs||1978||82,880|
Every Country’s Favourite Bedtime Story
Europe’s favourite overall story to read to their children at bedtime is Alice in Wonderland (221,260 searches), followed by Mr. Men (209,800 searches) and Coraline (180,000), with all three authors hailing from England.
When it came to Asia’s favourite bedtime story, Lewis Carroll’s adventures through Wonderland also held their position in first place – with a combined 112,620 global searches last year. The top three was completed by Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (109,360 searches) and J. K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (61,100 searches).
Africa’s top three preferred tales to fall asleep to consisted of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in first place with 15,420 searches across the continent, another Roald Dahl entry in second with Matilda seeing 12,490 searches and Alice in Wonderland completing the three – with 11,060 searches across all African countries combined.
North and Central America
In North and Central America it was actually Neil Gaiman’s Coraline that came out on top, with 286,520 searches for it across the continent. Alice in Wonderland came second with 199,400 searches, and the top three was rounded off by Corduroy (185,510 searches) – a sweet story about a teddy bear in a department store, and the book’s first entry into a top three ranking across the research.
South America’s top bedtime story is also Alice in Wonderland, with searches across the continent totalling 14,590. The first Harry Potter novel where he seeks the Philosopher’s stone came second, seeing a total of 13,230 searches; and Coraline came third, 11,970 searches combined in all south American countries.
In Oceania, it was Gaiman’s Coraline that took first place as the most searched for bedtime tale – a total of 29,730 Google searches recorded. In second it was Alice in Wonderland (28,350 searches) and the top three was finalised by Mr. Men with 25,250 searches.
We hope this list has given you all the inspiration you need for your child’s next bedtime read, and if your little one’s favourite possession is a dog-eared copy of their most treasured tale – why not get them their own personalised bedtime book?
A seedlist of over 370 children’s books was collated, using articles listing the best children’s books of all time and the top Amazon children’s book charts in the top 10 most widely spoken languages. The total number of Google searches for each book name + the keyword ‘book’ was calculated for each country across the globe for the last 12 months, and the results were then ranked according to which book saw the highest number of Google searches within each country.
All data correct as of August 2022.