Patriot Day is the time that we remember the horrific events of September 11, 2001. How do we talk about this day with our students, who were not alive when 9/11 happened? Picture books are where I always turn to talk about the difficult topics. They provide a bridge for students (and adults) to help them understand the enormity of this day. I pulled together a list of September 11th books for you to read aloud in your classroom.
I’m sharing all of these books on video as well! Check out the Read Aloud Books for September 11th on my Youtube channel.
This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.
September 11th Books
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is a good introduction to the World Trade Center for students. This is a beautifully told story of a man who walked the high wire between the Twin Towers in 1974. It is brilliantly illustrated book, which draws out the emotions of the story being told. The ending alludes to the fact that the Towers are no longer there, but it does not go into detail of the events of September 11th.
Fireboat is another book that would be good for younger students. The John J. Harvey was launched as a fireboat in 1931. For many years, it fought fires along the piers in New York City before it retired in 1995. Then a group of friends preserved it to use just for fun. But, then, on September 11th, the John J. Harvey was pulled into action again. He was needed to bring people to safety and pump water to put out the fires. A great book that shows you can make a difference in a time of need, when it feels as though there is little hope.
14 Cows for America is a powerful story about helping others in their time of need. This would be a great book to share in upper elementary. It is based on the true story of the Masai tribe in Kenya, who gave 14 cows (a sacred and valuable animal) to America after 9/11. This deeply moving book does not go into the events of September 11th, but shares how important it is to reach out and help others. “To heal a sorrowing heart, give something that is dear to your own.”
Speaking of upper elementary, nine, ten is a middle grade novel about September 11th. It follows four children from a few days before 9/11, during that day and then one year later. The eloquent writing and chilling events definitely brought me to tears while reading. Your students will be engaged in the subtle hints of history and each character’s story. They are all authentic, real and diverse, yet they are able to connect and heal.
The next three books are all about a Callery pear tree that had been planted in the World Trade Center plaza in the 1970s. This tree just barely survived the events of 9/11. It was rescued, brought back to life and replanted, earning it’s name The Survivor Tree.
Branches of Hope contains intertwined stories about the Survivor Tree – one in words and one in pictures. It starts with a 3-year old girl who idolizes her firefighter uncle and follows her to eventually becoming a firefighter herself. This book shows how Survivor Tree’s strength echoed the hope of a nation.
Survivor Tree is a brand new book (just released on August 30th) that provides a good introduction for younger students. It is a hopeful story without focusing on the events of the day. The beautiful, minimal language has a big impact. And the art captures the turning of the seasons and its parallel to the regrow the of the Survivor Tree.
This Very Tree is my favorite picture book of this whole set. It is a story of trauma, grief and recovery. It is told from the perspective of the tree, which will make it easier for students to connect with. This book is a touching tribute to those who picked up the pieces, planted a forest and built a new city.
To help students connect with this story, I created a free interactive read aloud lesson plan that you can use with your students.
Which September 11th books do you share with your students for Patriot Day?