Elementary teachers become masters at finding a teachable moment in all kinds of things – a turtle shell, a new student in class, a national tragedy. For those who may want to address the events of September 11 in their classrooms, following is a list of books that could help guide the discussion.
Ranging from true-life non-fiction accounts to whimsical stories of hope and perseverance, the elementary-appropriate books are intended for an audience too young to remember the actual events.
The Survivor Tree: Inspired by a True Story by Cheryl Somers Aubin. A month after the collapse of the Twin Towers, site workers discovered a few green leaves showing through the gray concrete and ash. A badly injured pear tree was rescued and taken to a nursery outside the city, where it began to thrive. Eventually replanted on the 9/11 Memorial Plaza, the imaginative story describes the experience, memories, and feelings of the tree throughout the healing and eventual return home.
September 11: Then and Now A True Book—Disasters! by Peter Benoit. A look at the facts of September 11, starting with some true or false questions that may help assuage fears about the horrific event. The story follows the unimaginable devastation and the amazing spirit of the people who united in recovery in the aftermath.
September Roses by Jeanette Winter. On September 11, 2001, two South African sisters from South Africa arrive in New York City with 2,400 roses for a flower show. They land amid a cloud of black smoke and learn of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. All flights are canceled, and the sisters are stranded with boxes and boxes of roses. What the sisters do with the roses is a vibrant, moving tribute to hope and the human spirit.
I Survived the Attacks of September 11th, 2001 (I Survived, Book 6) by Lauren Tarshis. On the day that shocks the world, one young boy starts the day just thinking about football. When Lucas's parents decide the sport is too dangerous and he needs to quit, Lucas decides to take the train to the city and see his biggest fan, his Uncle Benny, who’s a fireman with his dad. Just as Lucas arrives at the firehouse, everything changes.
September 11 (We the People: Modern America) by Mary Englar. A straightforward, nonfiction look at the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Part of a series for children about noteworthy people and events in American history.
September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right by Masterson Elementary Students. A first grade classroom in Missouri shares poignant stories of hope through simple text and vibrant art. On each page, children experience the comforts of ordinary routines, such as their teacher reading books to them, having homework and recess, and knowing that 2 + 2 still equals 4.
The Little Chapel that Stood by A. B. Curtiss. This beautifully illustrated book tells of the historic chapel less than 100 yards from the Twin Towers that miraculously survived on September 11. Told in verse, the story focuses on terror overcome by courage and bravery, illustrating that no one is too small to make a difference.
America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell (Actual Times) by Don Brown. Straightforward and honest, this account moves chronologically through the day with vivid watercolor illustrations that capture the emotion and pathos of the tragedy. Starting with the terrorist plane hijackings to the crashes at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania, the story moves through to the rescue operations at the World Trade Center site in New York City to the collapse of the buildings.
The Man in the Red Bandanna by Honor Crowther Fagan. When Welles Crowther was a young boy, his father gave him a red bandanna, which he always carried with him. On September 11, 2001, Welles Remy Crowther saved numerous people from the upper floors of the World Trade Center South Tower. "The Man in the Red Bandanna" recounts and celebrates his heroism on that day.
Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman. The John J. Harvey fireboat was the largest, fastest, shiniest fireboat of its time, but by 1995, the city didn't need old fireboats anymore. A group of friends saved it from the scrap heap, and then one sunny September day in 2001, the fire department called, asking if the Harvey could battle roaring flames again. In this inspiring true story, a New York City icon comes to life, proving that old heroes never die.