Thanksgiving Read Alouds for Kids & Families

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Having a stack of Thanksgiving Read Alouds can be a fun tradition. Not only does it provide reading and entertainment leading up to the holiday, but it can also start some great conversations and activities for parents and kids.

When you’ve run through these Thanksgiving Read Alouds, you can go on a Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt, do a Thanksgiving Crossword Puzzle & Word Search, or prep one of the recipes below to stretch the story experience.

an array of thanksgiving read alouds and picture books laid out on a black table top.

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As the holidays approach, it’s good practice to bust out the Thanksgiving Read Alouds. These may be books you’ve collected over the years or those that you check out from the library.

Whether you read aloud in the weeks leading up to the holiday or pull out a stack of books on Thanksgiving Day, having some special themed read alouds is akin to using the same decor or recipes from year to year. It reminds us and our kids of special celebrations together and creates new memories from year to year.

You may be pleasantly surprised to find that the adults within earshot are also listening and enjoying the tales of these Thanksgiving Read Alouds!

Why Do This

Reading with your kids is one of the most valuable activities you can do. While it takes a bit of concentration and maybe a trip to the library or bookstore, reading aloud works volumes for your relationship, your child’s vocabulary and attention span, and your family culture.

Since Thanksgiving has an historical back story, it’s helpful to give your kids context for the cookies and pilgrim hats they may see popping up around them. Thanksgiving Read Alouds, such as story books and chapter books can be a great way to do this.

Tips for Success

  • Remember the library will have limited copies of seasonal books, so selection will be limited. When you find Thanksgiving Read Alouds you love, see if you can locate affordable copies to add to your home collection rather than competing with other library patrons for that specific book.
  • Reading aloud can be done practically anywhere: in bed, on the living room sofa, in the backyard, at the park, in a doctor’s waiting room, on an airplane. It’s one easy, portable activity that can go with you and grow with your child.
cover image of cranberry thanksgiving featuring a new england farm house.

Cranberry Thanksgiving

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin was a favorite Thanksgiving Read Aloud of mine when I was young, so how fun to see that it’s back in print! It’s the story of a young girl who lives with her grandmother. Each gets to invite a guest to Thanksgiving dinner. Maggie invites her sea captain friend Mr. Whiskers while Grandmother invites an admirer who is secretly out to steal her famous cranberry bread recipe.

I remember reading this book with my Granny and baking the cranberry bread recipe in the back of the book when I was about 7 years old.

cover image of too many pumpkins featuring a field of giant pumpkins.

Too Many Pumpkins

While Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White may be more of a fall book than a decidedly Thanksgiving Read Aloud, it’s one of my favorite books ever and it suits the occasion. Featuring pumpkins galore and all the delicious baked goods you can make from pumpkins, the story is truly a lesson in gratefulness and appreciating what you have.

It is a must-read for the old and young.

cover image of the pilgrim stories book featuring a young girl in a red dress.

Pilgrim Stories

When my eldest was just a little tyke, I borrowed a friend’s copy of Pilgrim Stories, also titled Stories of the Pilgrims. It’s a great Thanksgiving Read Aloud full of short chapters about the Puritans of Plimouth. Reading it became a yearly tradition when my kids were young. It is a novelization of the accounts of the Pilgrims and their reasons for emigrating from Europe.

Disclaimer: The later chapters of the book discuss wars between the settlers and the Native Americans that you may want to skip. I don’t approve of the tone and vocabulary of these accounts so I recommend you preview this Thanksgiving read aloud to assure it’s inline with your family values. It’s possible that the new expanded version has edited the more questionable verbiage.

cover image of Problems in Plymouth with kids dressed in pilgrim garb running across a field.

Problems in Plymouth

Problems in Plymouth by Paul McCusker is part of the Imagination Station series where cousins Patrick and Beth are magically transported to the past to help solve problems and to learn from the people in another time.

In this instance, there’s a traitor in the Pilgrims’ midst and war is at risk. With many characters in dialogue, try to vary the accents and voices if you can. That’s what makes Thanksgiving Read Alouds super fun.

cover image of the Mashed Potatoes book featuring a little boy at the table digging into a bowl of mashed potatoes.

Mashed Potatoes

Another one of those not-quite Thanksgiving read alouds, Mashed Potatoes by Graham Koens is a super fun picture book featuring a little brother who loves mashed potatoes and ends up eating far too much. His ensuing dreams teach him there can be too much of a good thing.

My younger three absolutely LOVED this book when they were young, so it makes the shelf of books I’m keeping for the grandkids.

cover image of If You Sailed on the Mayflower, featuring a crowd of people on the deck of a ship waving goodbye.

If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620

If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern is part of the If You series by Scholastic that explores what it might have been like to live during a certain time period or historical event.

In this case, the book explains what it might have been like for the Pilgrims and their fellow travelers aboard the Mayflower 400 years ago: the seasickness, the mocking of the sailors, the loss of life along the way, the strength they showed to get through to their destination. It’s the history-heavy version of Thanksgiving Read Alouds.

cover image of william bradford featuring a young boy with a shepherd's staff and sheep in background.

William Bradford: Pilgrim Boy

William Bradford: Pilgrim Boy by Bradford Smith is a novelization of Bradford’s childhood, a lesser-known of the Thanksgiving Read Alouds.

At times the wording in these types of biographies is a little forced or overly formal. That said, this book was good enough to push through and give my kids some context for Thanksgiving and one of the men that led to its existence.

cover image of Thanksgiving on Thursday, featuring Jack holding a pumpkin and annie holding a basket.

Thanksgiving on Thursday

Thanksgiving on Thursday (Magic Tree House #27) by Mary Pope Osborne features another time-traveling duo. This time Jack and Annie are transported back to the first Thanksgiving.

Will they mess it up? Or will history stay as it was when they left the treehouse.

Note: these books were fantastic for my early readers. Teaching my kids to read was no small feat; I’m so thankful for this series that got my reluctant readers engaged and willing to put in the hard work. It ranks high as a favorite of Thanksgiving Read Alouds.

More Thanksgiving Fun

Need more inspiration? Be sure to check out these Fall Bucket List activities.

array of books on table with text overlay signifying they are Thanksgiving Read Alouds.

This post was originally published on November 8, 2011. It has been updated for content and clarity.

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  1. Thanksgiving A Time to Remember by Barbara Rainey is also a good book. It’s very historical and she made an effort to be very accurate. I enjoy it. The hardback edition I have also came with a Thanksgiving CD, which I usually play on the years we have Thanksgiving at our house.

  2. I actually just stumbled across some books today in our garage sale acquired library.

    Pilgrims of Plymouth by Susan Goodman has some really great photos and is very basic for you readers. I recommend it for preK-3rd grade.

    The Pilgrims First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern is fairly simple for a 1st-3rd grader

  3. I read Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation. I figure if he could find something to be thankful for while leading our nation through it’s darkest days and carrying that weight on his shoulders, then I can surely find a lot of things to be thankful for.

  4. I long ago lost (loaned and never returned) my copy of this book. I am happy to hear it is on Kindle. I plan on ordering tonight- thanks for sharing! I don’t remember the rewording- I am known to do that too- so thanks for the heads-up also.

  5. We loved this book too. I read it to my children when they were young and we all loved it. I plan to keep it to read to my grandchildren, someday, when I have some.