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Reading aloud has so many benefits for children. It improves literacy and develops self-esteem and confidence. And many of the stories children grow to love will become lifelong reading favourites.

The Child magazine team shares some of their lifelong reading favourites. 

Brenda Bryden, copy editor – Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh

I read this bookHarriet the Spy many times as a child in the late ‘60s and was enthralled each time. Even at the tender age of nine, I empathised with the unconventional, spunky, quirky, curious, misunderstood, intelligent eleven-year-old Harriet.

Raised as an only child in a well-to-do family living in New York City during the 1960s, young Harriet is the victim of emotionally absent parents. Ole Golly, her nurse, is the only adult who seems to interact with and care about her.

Harriet wants to be a writer. Encouraged by Ole Golly to watch people and record her observations, Harriet begins spying on people. With her sharp writer’s eye and inherent perception, she dives deep into people’s psyche and quickly perceives the reasons for their actions. She records her observations about the people around her (including her classmates) in a notebook. But things go horribly wrong when she loses the notebook, which is found by her classmates. After reading her nasty, but accurate, observations, they turn on her, and she is ostracised. Harriet must rectify the situation by learning to say sorry and recognise that her observations were hurtful and harmful.

On a superficial level, I was intrigued by the adventure and her ability to create spy gadgets from everyday items. Also, I was almost envious of her ability to move freely without parental control (although some of her activities were risky and probably illegal). On a more emotionally intellectual level, I felt her sadness and loneliness and realised that she was unable to make meaningful connections with people, hence her need to watch life play out around her from a safe distance.  This book rates very highly on my list of all-time reading favourites.

Renee Bruning, publisher – Busy, Busy World, by Richard Scarry Busy busy world

Our family always enjoyed Richard Scarry books, but we particularly loved this book of his. With the fun characters and humour throughout, it really makes reading out loud a delight. And, it introduces different countries in a funny sort of way – which is probably where I learnt my love for travel … as did my son. 

This book is large with many illustrations on each page. For very young children, it is a great book to talk about the names of objects and animals, colours, and cities, of course. Older children will like that the book contains various different stories, and reading age children will be able to read the stories on their own. Therefore I think this is a book that a child would enjoy for many years. This is a ‘must’ book to read to your children and we often give it as a baby gift. It’s a classic Richard Scarry — our favourite.

This is a great book to read aloud to children. Find out more about Nal’ibali’s World Read Aloud Day plans

the secret gardenAnél Lewis, editor – The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This intriguing coming-of-age classic is about a young spoiled English girl who is sent from India to live with her uncle in Yorkshire. Mary Lennox is accustomed to a life where she is waited on hand and foot. So she is most disagreeable when she discovers that she has to look after herself. Left to her own devices, Mary happens upon a secret garden. Locked for more than 10 years, the garden becomes a catalyst for self-discovery and growth. When she encounters another child living on the estate, the pair work together to awaken the garden. This is the start of emotional and physical healing for them both.

I loved the magical mystery of the garden with its restorative powers. While some of the language is very dated, the theme of growth and healing remains as powerful as ever.


Read more about the value of reading aloud with your child