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Using Children’s Books to Teach About 9/11


In the tapestry of history, some moments are etched so deeply into the collective consciousness that they shape the very course of humanity. The September 11, 2001 events stand as one of those pivotal moments, leaving an indelible mark on our world. As educators and parents, we face the challenge of discussing this complex and somber topic with the younger generation – a generation born after the towers fell but still affected by the ripples of that fateful day.

Amidst this task, a seemingly unconventional but incredibly potent tool emerges: children’s literature. These seemingly simple books, adorned with vibrant illustrations and age-appropriate language, have the remarkable capacity to communicate nuanced emotions, evoke empathy, and foster understanding. As we approach the anniversary of 9/11, we delve into the realm of children’s books and uncover the unique role they play in helping young minds comprehend the tragedy, honor the memories, and navigate the world shaped by it. This blog post will share some children’s books to teach about 9/11 that you can incorporate into your lessons.

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Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey

Amidst the towering skyscrapers and bustling streets of New York City, the historic fireboat John J. Harvey stands as a unique hero, brought to life in “Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey” by Maira Kalman. This children’s book gracefully recounts the tale of bravery and resilience that emerged from the aftermath of 9/11. Against the backdrop of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the book pays homage to the retired fireboat’s indomitable spirit. Once a vital part of the city’s firefighting fleet, the John J. Harvey was called back into service on that fateful day, its crew tirelessly using powerful hoses to pump water to Ground Zero. Through Maira Kalman’s eloquent words and vibrant visuals, young readers discover a different facet of heroism – a commitment to aiding others in crisis. The book not only captures the historical significance of the fireboat’s role but also underscores the resilience of the city and its people. Serving as a poignant entry point for discussions about 9/11 with children, “Fireboat” exemplifies how ordinary individuals and objects can rise to extraordinary challenges, reinforcing the messages of unity and compassion. By following the fireboat’s journey, readers grasp not just the past, but also the emergence of unity from it, a crucial lesson for navigating today’s complexities. As a tale of a fireboat turned symbol of hope, this book becomes an invaluable resource for educators and parents. It gently guides young minds through themes of bravery, community, and resilience, fostering conversations that honor 9/11’s memories and inspire the next generation to make positive contributions to the world.

14 Cows for America

14 Cows for America,” a touching children’s book authored by Carmen Agra Deedy and Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, weaves a poignant tapestry of empathy and solidarity in the wake of the tragic events of 9/11. This remarkable story centers on a Maasai warrior named Kimeli, who witnessed the devastation in New York City on September 11, 2001. Touched by the suffering he saw, Kimeli returned to his Kenyan village and shared the story, prompting an extraordinary act of compassion. The villagers, though they had few possessions, decided to offer 14 sacred cows – a symbol of prosperity – to the American people as a gesture of support and unity. Through vivid illustrations and heartfelt prose, the book captures the power of cross-cultural understanding and the profound impact of even the simplest acts of kindness. “14 Cows for America” not only honors the memory of 9/11 but also exemplifies the universal language of compassion that transcends borders and reminds us of our shared humanity.

30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag 

30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag” recounts a powerful tale of resilience, unity, and the remarkable transformation of a tattered American flag that witnessed the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Authored by Amanda Davis, this children’s book chronicles the journey of the National 9/11 Flag, a symbol of hope and healing. The flag, which was damaged in the aftermath of the attacks, embarked on a cross-country journey of restoration. As it traveled from state to state, survivors, first responders, and communities added their own threads, sewing in their stories of courage and compassion. Through this heartwarming story, readers witness the unbreakable spirit of America and the significance of coming together in the face of adversity. The book beautifully captures the evolution of a single flag into a symbol of national unity, teaching young readers the power of community and the importance of honoring those who lost their lives on that fateful day.

This Very Tree: A Story of 9/11, Resilience, and Regrowth

This Very Tree: A Story of 9/11, Resilience, and Regrowth” is a poignant children’s book authored by Sean Rubin that unfolds a tale of hope amidst the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The story centers around a Callery pear tree that miraculously survived the destruction at Ground Zero. This enduring tree, charred and broken, was rescued and nurtured back to life by dedicated arborists. Through the seasons, the tree’s transformation mirrors the resilience of the nation itself. Illustrated with emotive artwork, the book illustrates the tenacity of life and the healing power of nature, providing young readers with an accessible way to explore themes of tragedy, recovery, and the capacity to rebuild even in the face of adversity. “This Very Tree” is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the renewal that can arise from even the darkest moments in history.

Branches of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Branches of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree” is a touching children’s book by Ann Magee that tells the remarkable story of the Survivor Tree, a symbol of resilience and renewal that emerged from the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. This inspiring tale follows the life of a Callery pear tree, recovered from Ground Zero in the wreckage of the World Trade Center. Despite its damaged state, the tree was nurtured back to health and became a living testament to the strength of the human spirit. Through vivid illustrations and thoughtful prose, the book showcases the tree’s journey through the changing seasons, mirroring the emotional journey of survivors and the nation itself. “Branches of Hope” serves as a moving reminder that even in the face of tragedy, new growth and hope can emerge, illustrating the power of nature to heal and inspire.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers” is a captivating children’s book by Mordicai Gerstein that recounts the daring and breathtaking feat of Philippe Petit, a tightrope walker who walked between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Set against the backdrop of the iconic New York City skyline, the book chronicles Petit’s audacious adventure, blending beautifully detailed illustrations with a tale of courage and creativity. Through the eyes of Petit, readers experience the thrill of his high-wire act, suspended between the towering buildings. The story captures both the awe-inspiring spectacle and the sense of joy that comes from pursuing one’s passion, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers” is a testament to human ambition and the ability to turn dreams into reality, leaving young readers with a sense of wonder and the understanding that extraordinary achievements can be accomplished with determination and imagination.

The Man in the Red Bandanna

The Man in the Red Bandanna” is a compelling book by Honor Crowther Fagan that celebrates the extraordinary courage and selflessness of Welles Crowther, a young man who emerged as a hero during the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Through vivid storytelling and personal anecdotes, the book sheds light on Welles’ life, from his childhood to his college years, and ultimately to his career in finance. When the Twin Towers were struck, Welles, wearing his signature red bandanna, fearlessly aided and guided numerous people to safety before sacrificing his own life. The book captures his legacy of compassion and bravery, highlighting the impact of a single individual’s actions on the lives of many. “The Man in the Red Bandanna” is a testament to the power of heroism and the enduring spirit of unity that arose in the face of tragedy.

Saved by the Boats: The Heroic Sea Evacuation of September 11 

Saved by the Boats: The Heroic Sea Evacuation of September 11″ is a gripping book by Julie Gassman that recounts the lesser-known yet pivotal role played by maritime vessels during the evacuation efforts on September 11, 2001. With vivid illustrations and a compelling narrative, the book showcases the heroic efforts of various boat operators who selflessly navigated the waters around Manhattan to rescue thousands of people stranded by the attacks. Through the eyes of the individuals on these boats, readers witness the urgency, compassion, and unity that characterized the maritime response to the crisis. “Saved by the Boats” offers a fresh perspective on the events of 9/11, highlighting the invaluable contributions of ordinary individuals who became unsung heroes in a time of dire need. The book serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the unwavering determination to help one another, even in the face of unprecedented adversity.

There are many children’s books to teach about 9/11. We’ve uncovered the power of storytelling to impart lessons of resilience, unity, and compassion, ensuring that the lessons of 9/11 are passed on with sensitivity and grace. So, let’s turn tragedy into teaching, and open the door to discussions that shape young minds into informed and empathetic global citizens.


My name is Jen and I’m the face behind Endeavors in Education.

I have a passion for ELA and science. I am even STEM certified. Now I spend my time hanging with my kids, blogging (endeavorsined.com), and creating for my TpT store Endeavors in Education.

I’m so happy you’ve joined me on this journey!

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