There is nothing better to give your family than the gift of time together. And the best way (IMHO) to spend that time is to gather together for a family reading session.
Sure, it's not always easy to find just the right read aloud book that everyone will love. But that's why you've come to this book list! Because you know that we specialize in the best read alouds. So here you go: a brand new list of the best family read aloud books to give yourself as a gift this year. I guess you could give them to others, too. 😉
Note: if you purchase books online, you can still support local, independent booksellers by visiting Bookshop. I've combined these titles along with my heartwarming read aloud list at Bookshop here. Links are affiliate links that may earn commission.
Family Read Aloud Book Gifts
To help you pick just the right book, I've listed a "for families who like" book reference and an age recommendation. The age recommendation is for listening; independent reading ages may be different.
Skunk and Badger
by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Badger lives alone in his aunt's brownstone. He spends his days doing Important Rock Work. But one day, his peace is disturbed when Skunk shows up, informing him that he is Badger's new roommate. Badger is none too happy about this and is determined to rid himself of Skunk. Hilarity ensues and lots and lots of chickens make an appearance. Will Badger and Skunk eventually become friends? We loved reading this aloud and Klassen's full color and black and white illustrations are the perfect accompaniment.
For families who like The Wind in the Willows, Winnie-the-Pooh. Ages 4 and up.
Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North
by Dan Bar-El, illustrated by Kelly Pousette
This is the sequel to The Very, Very Far North, which if you haven't read, you must run out at get it right away. In the first book, Duane the polar bear arrives in the Very, Very Far North and makes friends with an eclectic group of animals. Now, Duane and his friends' idyllic life is interrupted by the arrival of a mischievous weasel. With the same heartwarming stories and cozy feel of the first book, you won't want to put this one down.
For families who like Winnie-the-Pooh. Ages 4 and up.
Kenny and the Book of Beasts
by Tony DiTerlizzi
This is another sequel (I promise there are no more sequels on this list), and I do recommend starting with Kenny and the Dragon, a charming retelling of the Kenneth Grahame's classic, The Reluctant Dragon. Now, a few years (and 12 sisters) later, Kenny's dragon friend, Grahame, has reunited with Dante, a manticore, and Kenny's feeling jealous. DiTerlizzi's book is chock full of lively illustrations which young listeners will enjoy gazing at while they listen.
For families who like My Father's Dragon, The Wizard of Oz. Ages 5 and up.
The Adventures of Catvinkle
by Elliot Perlman, illustrated by Laura Stitzel
Find it: Amazon
Set in Amsterdam, Perlman's story begins when Mr. Sabatini brings home Ula the Dalmatian to live with him and his flying cat, Catvinkle. Catvinkle is at first wary, but then falls in love with Ula's smell (!) and the two begin their adventures, meeting up with other interesting pets in the city. This is a lovely, gentle chapter book for families who love animals. Perlman's entertaining narration is humorous, incorporating word play, some slapstick and the themes of friendship and kindness. Readers will also love Stitzel's illustrations.
For families who like Jenny and the Cat Club. Ages 4 and up.
The Flying Classroom
by Erich Kästner
Over the years, I've included Kästner's most famous work, Emil and the Detectives, on many book lists. Did you know he also wrote The Parent Trap? In any case, The Flying Classroom is an overlooked wonder of a book that will be enjoyed during the holiday season. Set in a German boarding school, a group of kindhearted and utterly lovable boys get into scrapes. Some are your typical school pranks, at other times they are instrumental in bringing together long-lost friends. A kindly headmaster understands their good intentions and ushers them through school life and into the Christmas break. One of my favorite elements is the witty commentary from the narrator. Great fun.
For families who like Nicholas, Emil and the Detectives, The Worst Christmas Pageant Ever. Ages 7 and up.
by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Marianna Raskin
Becca and her three brothers are quadruplets. One day, Becca finds a tiny, mangy little pig and convinces her parents to let her bring it home. Once the family learns from the vet that the pig will eventually be 600 pounds, they agree to allow the pig to stay until it reaches 100, or "maybe 50-60," as her mother warns. As Becca learns to take care of the pig, she also reflects upon some of the choices she has made in life, especially in regards to a friend she feels she has let down. This is a great family story and Kadohata's narration is superb, as always.
For families who like Charlotte's Web, Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. Ages 7 and up.
The Silver Arrow
by Lev Grossman
If you want a magical fantasy to read aloud, grab yourself a ticket to take a ride on The Silver Arrow. On Kate's 11th birthday, her eccentric Uncle Herbert gives her a full sized locomotive. Kate has been waiting for something exciting to happen her whole life, and here is her chance to have an adventure! She and her brother hop aboard and the train takes off! They are joined by a menagerie of talking animals, each of whom has a ticket and soon Kate and Tom understand that their journey is more than just a joy-ride but a world-saving mission. Wry and humorous narration will delight parents as well as kids.
For families who like Harry Potter. Ages 8 and up.
Ways to Make Sunshine
by Renée Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata
Heroine Ryan Hart is absolutely delightful. She is the first one to see the silver lining in any situation, and she always tries to see the best in people. But that doesn't mean everything always goes according to plan. Dad loses his job at the post office and the family has to make some big changes, not to mention her sometimes bossy older brother! A great choice for families looking for a realistic story about contemporary life.
For families who like Ramona Quimby, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Ages 7 and up.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
by Dusti Bowling
This funny and moving book will be your new favorite! Aven Green and her family move from Kansas to Arizona, where her dad has taken a job as the manager of a western theme park. Aven was born without any arms but that hasn't stopped her from accomplishing anything–she just does it with her feet! Aven narrates her own tale with a humorous, clever and truth-telling eye. With the help of her new friends, she sets out to solve a mystery and learn the secrets of Stagecoach Park.
For families who like Wonder, Save Me a Seat. Ages 9 and up.
Letters from Cuba
by Ruth Behar
I could not stop turning the pages of this excellent epistolary novel. In 1938, Esther leaves her mother and brother in Poland and joins her father in Cuba. Esther tells her story in a series of letters to her sister. Making the journey by herself, as a Jewish refugee, Esther looks forward to her new home. Once in Cuba, she falls in love with the island and her neighbors. Her father has been working as a peddler, but Esther is a talented seamstress and finds success selling sought after dresses so that she and her father are finally able to send for the rest of the family. Behar based the book on the story of her grandmother and introduces readers to an incredibly diverse population.
For families who like historical fiction. Ages 9 and up.
by Linda Sue Park
A stellar, thoughtful alternative to the Little House books (or in addition to them), Prairie Lotus, is about Hanna, a 14 year old half-Chinese girl who dreams of being a dressmaker. She and her white father have moved to a new town in Dakota territory where her father is opening a dress goods store. Hanna is excited about going to school for the first time and graduating, as her mother dreamed for her. She faces the racism of the town’s white folks, but Hanna is determined. Hanna’s strong inner voice, the memory of her Mama and a few new friends help her stay strong and succeed.
For families who like Little House on the Prairie