Family read aloud time is the best time in the world. When you find just the right heartwarming children's book to share with everyone, you want to jump for joy because family time is that much better.
Always on the hunt for the next great read aloud, I recently asked parents what their current read aloud was. One mom responded,
I’m on the search for a few well-written, light-hearted books. I keep reading wonderful, but emotionally charged, books and I just want to read the equivalent of a big hug.
This got me thinking about our favorite heartwarming read aloud books. Now, some of the books on this list definitely have elements that are "emotionally charged" but even so the overwhelming experience of all these books is that they are a "big hug," with some life lessons attached. So get out the blankets and cozy up on the couch for some snuggles and a great book.
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16 Heartwarming Family Books
Little Cat's Luck
by Marion Dane Bauer
This is the companion book to the verse novel Little Dog Lost, but you don't need to read one in order to enjoy the other. A little cat goes in search of a cozy nesting place and much to her surprise, she delivers a few kittens. A neighborhood dog, whom everyone believed was a menace, displays great gentleness and pride when the kittens take over his doghouse. But little cat wants to get back home. Can she do so without losing her kittens? A book you are sure to love.
Save Me a Seat
by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
This funny and touching story of Ravi, an Indian immigrant adjusting to middle school and Joe, a boy who recently lost his best friend due to a move, is told in alternating voices. The two boys become friends when they unite again a school bully and one seriously crazy week full of laugh out loud humor ensues.
by Cynthia Rylant
My son's teachers read this my son's first grade class and my then-6 year old loved it so much he wanted me to read it at home. So of course I did! This charming story follows the adventures of a bat with a taste for junk food, a kind dog and a wise hermit crab as they try to save their friend Stumpy the Squirrel and her new babies.
The Wheel on the School
by Meindert DeJong
In Holland, Lina and her friends wonder why there are no longer any storks in their village. They work together to build a nest for the birds on the school, and in doing so discover their individual and collective strengths. I remember loving it as a kid, for some reason I was expecting my kids to find it boring. Quite the contrary! Even my then-6 year old couldn't wait to hear more.
The Very Very Far North
by Dan Bar-El
This is my new favorite read aloud, and I don't say that lightly! Duane the polar bear has a curiosity and sense of adventure that leads him first to a shipwreck where he meets C.C. the Owl. He then encounters even more new friends like Handsome the musk ox, Magic the arctic fox, and Major Puffin. Together, they explore the wonders of the northern landscape. The cast of animals is as diverse in their personalities as they are in species and the thread of the story focuses on learning to appreciate one's friends. An absolute must-read book, and an excellent choice for kids of all ages.
When Mischief Came to Town
by Katrina Nannestad
In early 20th century Denmark, an orphan girl meets her grandmother for the first time when she goes to live with her after the death of her mother. Inge Maria is a free spirit and even though trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes (hilarious trouble, to be sure) the townspeople and her grandmother can’t help but fall utterly in love with her. I thought Nannestad masterfully handled Inge Maria’s grief over her mother’s death, her joyous attitude towards new experiences, and her headstrong imagination.
The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden
by Karina Yan Glaser
The second book in a series detailing the heartwarming adventures of a biracial family who live in Harlem. The first book takes place at Christmas and in this story, the siblings decide to create a healing garden for the benefit of their neighbors.
The Seven Tales of Trinket
by Shelley Moore Thomas
It is your next favorite read aloud. After the death of her mother and with the company of Thomas the Pig Boy, eleven year old Trinket sets out to find her father, a wandering bard. Trinket has her own gift for storytelling and on her journey she encounters strange and wonderful personalities, some are creatures drawn from Celtic mythology and folklore, like the selkie, banshee and the pooka. Absolutely splendid!
by Sharon Creech
Young Louie misses his brother Gus, who is in the army. So nursing a small, sickly donkey he names Winslow helps to fill the gap of loneliness. Winslow also helps him befriend Nora, a charming and quirky girl who lives close by who is dealing with a loss of her own. Delightful, heartwarming and will spark lots of conversation.
The Book of Boy
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Boy, as he is called, is an outcast in his medieval village. He is able to communicate with animals, is mocked for his misshapen back and treated cruelly by those he works for. One day a pilgrim named Secundus passes through and engages Boy as his servant on his journey to retrieve the relics of Saint Peter. Along the way, Boy meets fascinating characters, falls into dangerous and mysterious adventures and learns that things, including his own sense of self, are not always as they seem. This is a spellbinding tale which will have you and your kids discussing the nature of goodness and making choices.
by Katherine Applegate
Red, the 200-plus year old tree, narrates this tale. From her perspective we learn about a celebration in May in which the town inhabitants come to tie their wishes to the tree. We learn about the animals who take shelter in Red, the past neighbors who have found solace in Red, and we see Samar, a lonely girl who comes to spend time at the tree. When a boy hangs messages of hate about Samar on the tree, Red begins to communicate with the animals to intervene and bring hope back to the community. Wonderful.
Bud, Not Buddy
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Curtis is one my favorite middle grade authors and I loved reading this aloud to my 9 year old. 10 year old Buddy runs away from a series of unpleasant foster homes and sets out to find his father, whom he believes to be a jazz musician. Set in the depression, Curtis’ writing is filled with humor as well as serious truths. Ultimately, it’s an optimistic book, full of laughs and one cannot help but fall in love with Buddy.
A Single Shard
by Linda Sue Park
In 12th century Korea, Tree-Ear, an orphan, lives under the bridge with the disabled Crane-man. The two survive from day to day but Tree-Ear is fascinated by the local revered potter, Min. Circumstances collide and Tree-Ear becomes Min's apprentice. Tree-Ear must learn patience, an appreciation for hard work, as well as suffer Min's bad temper. When Min sets about creating pottery to impress an emissary, Tree-Ear is determined to help him succeed and undergoes an important, life-changing journey. An utterly fantastic book.
Adventures with Waffles
by Maria Parr
Trille and Lena are best friends in this Norwegian import. Or at least Trille thinks Lena is his best friend. He does frequently worry about that. But it doesn't stop the pair of them from getting into mischief. Lena has her own insecurities, especially her desire for a father. One of the things I especially enjoyed was the emphasis on intergenerational relationships, and–of course –Auntie Granny's delicious waffles.
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher
by Dana Alison Levy
This book made me laugh out loud. A family of 2 dads and 4 adopted sons (all together they span several ethnicities and religions) lead a rather disordered and hilarious lifestyle. The boys all have different personalities, which could lend themselves to stereotypes, but thankfully do not. After finishing this book I wanted to move right in to the Fletcher household, if only to try out their DIY hockey rink. (You’ll have to read it to find out.)
A Long Way From Chicago
by Richard Peck
In depression-era Illinois, Joey and his younger sister Mary Alice spend 9 summers with their formidable, yet lovable Grandma. Each chapter is a self-contained story of one hilarious summer-time adventure and are perfect for family read alouds. Even though this book was written in 1998, it reads like an old-fashioned children’s novel. There are three books about the same family; this one was awarded a Newbery Honor.
More heartwarming books to share: