Booklists, Digital Reading | January 27, 2021

2020: The Year in Children’s Books


Nearly one million children kept reading

2020 was a hard year for children around the world. Our library helped those children keep reading, learning, and dreaming.

Across the globe, from India, to Peru, Ghana, and the United States, nearly one million children read book, after book, after book!

All of these readers were reached thanks to our partners: Jio, Moya, and Opera. These partnerships get us one step closer to a better world, powered by readers. A great reminder that: “if you want to go far, go together.

The Top Children’s Books of 2020 show us not only the content children sought during this difficult season, but the knowledge they gained to prepare them for 2021 and beyond. Here’s a look at the top books and themes that kept children reading this past year. 

The #1 children’s book of 2020

The most popular book on our BookSmart app was हवा और सूरज / Hawa aur Suraj. Nearly 125,000 children read this popular folktale in 2020. Available in both Hindi and English, this story explores who is more powerful – the shining sun or the howling wind.

Top 5 children’s books in North America

Among last year’s most popular children’s books in North America, COVID-19 was a particularly popular theme.

The Girl With the Magic Hands
Bunty and Bubbly: COVID-19
A House for a Mouse
Hello, My Name is Coronavirus
A Fish and a Gift

Top 5 children’s books in East and South Africa

Across East and South Africa, the most popular books touched on aspects of emotional health.

Feeling Sad (Feelings Series)
Machher Jhol (Fish Curry)
21 Growing Up Stories
Baby Who Cried
Mary Plants a Tree (SWL Nature Series)

Top 5 children’s books in Latin America

Children in Latin America, particularly Peru, were drawn to books about the environment and COVID-19.

3…2…1… ¡A despegar!
Romina y la Cuarentena
Las Alpaquitas
Cuentos del Peru para Niños
Romina y el Covid-19

“Romina and COVID-19 is my favourite book. Wash your hands with water and soap. Count to 20 and don’t forget protection!”

– 7-year-old Josep.

Top 5 children’s books in the Middle East and North Africa

Similar to East and South Africa, the most popular books in the Middle East and North Africa also featured children’s feelings.

ياسمين والوحش / Yasmin and the Monster
المولود الجديد / The Newborn Baby
أحياناً أشعر بالخوف: كتاب عن الخوف / Sometimes I Feel Afraid: A Book about Fear
قمر لمى / Lama’s Moon
آدم يحب الرسم / Adam Likes to Draw

Top 5 children’s books in South Asia

Last year’s most popular children’s books in South Asia, particularly India, focused on nature.

हवा और सूरज / Hawa aur Suraj
Wild for Life
Dance of the Wild
Angry Akku
हाथी शहर को गया / Haathi Shehar ko Gaya

Top 5 children’s books in West Africa

In West Africa, the environment was a theme present in almost all of the top children’s books of the year.

Sosu’s Call
Mary at the Amazon Rainforest (SWL Nature Series)
King of the Trees
Andy’s Maize Farm (SWL Nature Series)
Mary Plants a Tree (SWL Nature Series)

The top 4 languages read by children

Here are the most popular languages children read in from our library.





How we measure our top children’s books

This year, we took a deeper, more regional look at the most popular children’s books in our library. We looked at each region – North America, East and South Africa, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and West Africa – and recorded the five books that were opened the most by young readers.

How do we measure a reader? 

On our platform, we measure a reader as a user who has displayed reading activity by moving through at least one page of text at a legitimate speed for reading. This speed is based on an algorithm that differentiates reading, browsing and idling behavior.

How do we measure top books and themes? 

To determine the top themes across regions as well as the top languages, we looked at the themes and languages that were present in this sample of 30 popular books from across our regions. 

A word on Latin America and South Asia

Our top books for Latin America are based predominately on reader behaviour in Peru, while our top books for South Asia are based predominately on reader behaviour in India.

Check out our children’s library

You can access these children’s books and hundreds more on our BookSmart app by scanning the QR code below. NOTE: these books can only be accessed on your mobile phone. Some of them may not be available in your country. Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.