Chromatin remodeling is required for genome function and is facilitated by ATP-dependent complexes, such as nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase (NuRD). Among its core components is the chromodomain helicase DNA binding protein 3 (CHD3) whose functional significance is not well established. Here, we show that CHD3 co-localizes with the other NuRD subunits, including HDAC1, near the H3K9ac-enriched promoters of the NuRD target genes. The tandem PHD fingers of CHD3 bind histone H3 tails and posttranslational modifications that increase hydrophobicity of H3K9-methylation or acetylation (H3K9me3 or H3K9ac)-enhance this interaction. Binding of CHD3 PHDs promotes H3K9Cme3-nucleosome unwrapping in vitro and perturbs the pericentric heterochromatin structure in vivo. Methylation or acetylation of H3K9 uniquely alleviates the intra-nucleosomal interaction of histone H3 tails, increasing H3K9 accessibility. Collectively, our data suggest that the targeting of covalently modified H3K9 by CHD3 might be essential in diverse functions of NuRD.