The Ten Best: Books to read aloud

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The Independent Culture

1. Nancy and Plum by B Macdonald

This was our favourite book when Emma was six. It's a story about two sisters who run away from an orphanage and for young girls, it has everything going for it. There are wonderful descriptions of clothes, dolls and girls' friendships and an adventure. It was my favourite book when I was that age, too.

George Mann Books, £8.95 (ISBN: 0704102927)

2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

I think that this is my all-time favourite picture book. It works for any child because of its short, poetic text where every word counts, but it's the illustrations that really tell the story. It's perfect for a child who is sitting on your lap looking at the pictures as you read.

Red Fox, £5.99 (ISBN: 0099408392)

3. Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban

Frances is a young badger and she's a delightful, quirky character, but can be a bit obstinate and goes through a stage where she won't eat anything more adventurous than bread and jam. Illustrations by Lillian Hoban.

Jonathan Cape Children's Books, from £1.50, second-hand from (ISBN: 0224045911)

4. Lavender's Blue: A Book of Nursery Rhymes by Kathleen Lines

A book of rhymes with wonderful, quirky illustrations by Harold Jones. I remember we got it out of the library and liked it so much that I went out and bought a copy. I feel it's important for children to learn nursery rhymes.

Oxford University Press, £14.99 (ISBN: 0192782274)

5. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

It tells the story of three very different sisters who are sent to stage school. I have read a few Streatfeild stories aloud because they're easy, entertaining books, but they are quite long, so for a young child, it's perhaps best to read just a few chapters at a time. They really are lovely, engaging tales.

Orion Children's, £9.99 (ISBN: 1842552473 )

6. What Katy Did by Susan M Coolidge

This is a warm story about a tomboy called Katy. She falls from a swing and is confined to her bed for a year and no one knows whether she'll walk again. And there's the saintly cousin, Helen, who got on my nerves terribly, but my daughter thought she was wonderful.

Wordsworth Editions Ltd, £1.50 (ISBN: 1853261319)

7. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Instead of a rags to riches story, this is a riches to rags story. It's about a rich, but not spoilt, little girl who's left at a boarding school when her father loses all his money. Here she has to be a maid and live in the attic, where she has a pet rat as a friend. It ends happily and is a good, girly read.

Penguin Popular Classics, £2.99 (ISBN: 0140622373)

8. Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit

Nesbit wrote in Edwardian times so her books are a little dated, but she has a lively style and they're particularly good to read aloud because each chapter finishes the story within it. All her books are wonderful, but this one with the irritable sand fairy, the Psammead, is a particular favourite.

HarperCollins Children's Books, £4.99 (ISBN: 0007196873)

9. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I try to get every girly girl to read this one because those four sisters are so real. Everybody's favourite is Jo, the tomboy who wants to be a writer. Emma loved it and we had a wonderful holiday in New England where we went to Louisa May Alcott's house.

The Modern Library, £5.99 (ISBN: 0375756728)

10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Technically this is an adult book, but I read it to Emma when she was about 10. She particularly enjoyed the first few chapters when Jane is a little girl and she's treated badly by her aunts and her cousins and then packed off to a terrible boarding school.

Penguin Classics, £5.99 (ISBN: 0140434003)