A day to remember for all Americans, the events of September 11th are too often confined to history class for students. We at Primerrily believe this day is an opportunity to have a conversation with our kids about the reality of bad in the world, but also about the power of good and resilience in the American spirit. These books help initiate some of those conversations.
What Were the Twin Towers? (by Jim O’Connor)
This book follows the origin of the Twin Towers: from the Dutch’s New Amsterdam settlement (the site where the landmark would later be built), to the fall of the second tower, and finally the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial. While the purpose of this book is to highlight a pair of skyscrapers now synonymous with unprecedented tragedy and heroism, I also appreciated learning the backstory and “birth” of the Twin Towers. I’ll admit it: I lived in downtown Manhattan for seven years and never knew that the area’s land mass increased in the 1960's because of the Twin Towers. Dirt excavated to make way for the Twin Towers’ construction was placed along the shoreline of the Hudson River. In addition to the physical aspects of these buildings, also known as the World Trade Center, the book addresses its time of devastation. It is an informational read for children just starting chapter books, although I was tempted to edit pages 78-79 (because you can do that with sharpie in the books you read with your children!). The author unfairly lays blame on the Bush administration to have not caught the disparate warning signs, nor pieced together the threat. Instead, I took this as an opportunity to explain government inefficiency. In this case, too many rules and regulations prevented people from sharing important information and cooperating to prevent Bin Laden’s attack on America. From the Towers’ ambitious construction to their tragic end, this is a helpful elementary-aged chapter book for children aged 7+.
Lesson: the Twin Towers were more than just a landmark -- they were a city within a city and even had their own postal code! They were an iconic part of New York destroyed by people who hated America. But New York re-built! The American spirit perseveres.
Ideas for discussion:
This is a “heavier,” more serious book with a lot of information. Have a conversation with your child about which chapters sparked their interest the most, which were the hardest to read, and why?
When talking about the 9/11 Memorial Museum, ask your child what types of things he/she would expect to see there. Then take a virtual tour at 911memorial.org and visit those exhibits.
Ask Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa where they were when the towers were attacked. What were they thinking? How did they react?
September 11 Then and Now (by Peter Benoit)
For children who can read to themselves (ages 7+), this book explains the events and lasting impact of September 11, 2001. It covers the many aspects of the attacks, including specifics on timeline, an overview on terrorism, how rescue workers responded that day, and reactions of people living around the world. Benoit’s book is split up into short chapters dedicated to specific informational details. Note my personal decision to tear out pages 12-15, which give the bios of the terrorists. I wish to strip terrorists of any fame or notoriety for their actions. Rather than a story, this book is an overview of the facts and could be a solid starting point for sharing the truth that terrorism exists, but America will always find a way to prevail. Parents could consider using this as a simple text to also introduce the hard facts of this tragic day rather than as a hand-off book for a child to read.
In the face of tragedy, we must learn to be the helpers. To help defend our homeland, to help the victims’ families in any way we are able, and to memorialize the people and places we’ve lost in order to always remember them.
Ideas for discussion:
Ask your children about a time in their lives when something unexpected happened: how did you fix or help in that situation? Did it make you feel better? Did it make someone else feel better?
Come up with ideas of ways to remember and honor important people or moments in your life.
What are some ways we can keep the memory alive of the Americans lost on 9/11? i.e. praying for their families, placing flags on the lawn, raising money for Tunnel to Towers or Tuesday’s Children to provide ongoing support to the families of the victims.
If you are near New York, NY, Stoystown, PA, or Arlington, VA, visit a 9/11 Memorial with your children.