A survey of millennial parents reveals that book format, diverse characters, and positive reviews influence parents’ decisions when purchasing books for their kids.

When it comes to making a children’s book a market success, writers and publishers use all sorts of tactics; from funky art styles to fun rhymes, publishers for children’s literature have no end of methods to catch a child’s eye. But for all the colorful creativity in the genre, there is one particular group that writers and publishers need to take into account when marketing their books: the parents. While a child may enjoy a book’s illustrations or funny-sounding rhymes, a recent survey suggests that millennial parents are conscious about which books and which book formats they allow into their home.


In the article “​​What Compels Millennial Parents to Buy Books for Their Children?,” Emma Wolf (2021), from Portland State University, conducts a survey among 150 millennial parents (born between 1981 and 1996) to determine what factors these parents take into account when they purchase books for their children. The survey asked which medium parents and their children preferred to read in (print, e-book, or audiobook), how important diverse characters were to parents, and to what extent positive and negative reviews influenced parents to purchase a book. 

After analyzing the results, Wolf (2021) found that the majority of parents ranked their book format preferences in the following order: print, audiobook, and then e-book. The second highest order of preference for parents was print, e-book, and then audiobook. Parents also indicated that they thought their children would have a similar preference for book formats, though 18.4% of parents believed their kids would prefer audiobooks or e-books over print.

When it comes to having diverse characters, Wolf (2021) found that over half of parents ranked diverse characters as the most important attribute in a children’s book. Only four parents ranked this attribute as the least important.

In addition, Wolf’s (2021) survey found that while both negative and positive book reviews influence a parent’s decision to buy a book for their child, positive reviews have more of an impact on the parent. Given a scale of 1–5, with 1 being the least important and 5 being the most important, the surveyed parents ranked the influence that positive and negative reviews had on them when considering the purchase of a children’s book. Of these parents, 62.2% ranked positive reviews as either a 4 or a 5 of importance, while only 36.4% ranked negative reviews as a 4 or a 5.


These results from Wolf’s (2021) survey demonstrate that even though children’s books should be entertaining and enjoyable for children, such books may not make it into a child’s hand if the book does not meet the preferences of the parents who are purchasing the books.

“A majority of parents are looking for books that reflect diverse experience, and having these titles available is especially crucial for children of diverse backgrounds.”

—Emma Wolf (2021)

For authors and publishers who aim to make a children’s book a market success, the book needs to be accessible in various forms. While print currently appears to be the dominant preference among parents and their children, e-books and audiobooks seem to be the preference for a sizeable percentage of children.

Successful children’s books also need to present diverse character experiences in a natural and positive way. Wolf (2021) states, “A majority of parents are looking for books that reflect diverse experience, and having these titles available is especially crucial for children of diverse backgrounds” (14).

Promoting positive reviews is also crucial to the market success of a new children’s book. Most potential parent purchasers are looking for positively reviewed books to read to their kids, so publishers will profit from encouraging positive reviews online.

If you are a children’s book publisher or author, keeping these three insights in mind will help you stay focused on marketing your books as appealing to both parents and children—and help encourage the next generation of readers to read.

To learn more about what to consider when marketing children’s books, read the full article:

Wolf, Emma. 2021.“What Compels Millennial Parents to Buy Books for Their Children?” Book Publishing Final Research Paper: 56. https://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/35750.

 —Alyssa Anderson, Editing Research


Find more research:

Read more about how the landscape of children’s book marketing is changing with Margaret Beditz’s article: “The Dynamic Landscape of Marketing Children’s Books: Publishers Find Consistent Success Through a Combination of Online and Traditional Marketing to Adults and Children.” Publishing Research Quarterly 34, no. 2 (2018): 157–69. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12109-018-9584-1.

Discover how e-books are impacting children’s reading experience with Jessica Hoffman and Kathleen Paciga’s article: “Click, Swipe, and Read: Sharing e-Books with Toddlers and Preschoolers.” Early Childhood Education Journal 42, no. 6 (November 16, 2013): 379–88. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-013-0622-5.