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Ten Years Ago: Remembering September 11, 2001

This week, The Classroom Bookshelf is offering a different format to provide you with resources to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001 in a way that is appropriate for your students, school, and community.
It is early in the school year, and, just like teachers that very day ten years ago, you are just getting to know your students. Some of you were school children on that day, some veteran teachers. As the 10th anniversary approaches, each of you must decide what’s right for your students and your school community. There is no one best way, and communities across the nation will be honoring the victims differently. Hopefully, you and your teaching colleagues have had opportunities to plan for these difficult conversations together.
We hope that the following children’s and young adult titles may help you design a lesson, an activity, or a portion of a school assembly to honor those lost and commemorate the heroic actions of so many.
Book List
Picture Books 
Deedy, C.A. (2009). 14 cows for America. Ill. by T. Gonzalez. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree.
  • The story of how a small village in Kenya gives 14 sacred cows to America, to help the nation heal after the events of September 11th.

Gerstein, M. (2003). The man who walked between the towers. CT. Roaring Brook Press.

  • The 2003 Caldecott winner describes the daring actions of acrobat Philippe Petit, who walked a high wire strung between the towers in 1974.
Kalman, M. (2002). Fireboat: The heroic adventures of the John J. Harvey. New York: Putnam Juvenile.
  • The story of how the John J. Harvey fireboat came out of retirement to help contain the fires at Ground Zero after the attack on September 11th.
Winter, J. (2004). September roses. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux.
  • Winter’s fictionalized account of the events of September 11th and the days that followed are shaped by her experiences that week, as a resident of New York.

Nonfiction Chapter Books

Cart, M. (2002). 911 The book of help. Peterborough, NH: Cricket/Marcato Books.
  • Over 20 children’s and young adult writers contributed to this collection of essays and reflections, poetry and short stories.
Hampton, W. September 11, 2001: Attack on New York City. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.
  • A chronology of the events on September 11th, told from the perspective of four different individuals in Manhattan.
Thoms, A. (2002). With their eyes: September 11th – The view from a high school at Ground Zero. New York: Harper Collins.
  • This collection of memoirs was compiled from the oral histories conducted by students at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, who witnessed the events unfold just steps from Ground Zero.
Online Resources
School Library Journal’s “Never Ending Search” Blog: September 11th Online Resources
Teaching 9/11 – Why? How? – The New York Times
9/11 Memorial website
September 11 10th Anniversary Discussion Guides – National Association of School Psychologists
September 11: Teaching Contemporary History
Teaching Invitations
  • Mordicai Gerstein’s Caldecott-winning picture book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers offers a unique and profoundly inspiring presentation of the “Twin Towers” and their role in American history. Share Philippe Petit’s daring actions with your students to offer a view of the towers as an awesome human accomplishment in a city that symbolizes humanity’s desire to dream about reaching greater heights. Older students may be able to begin to understand that the city of New York has symbolized freedom and new opportunity to people around the world for centuries.
  • 14 Cows for America describes the gift of 14 cows made by a Maasai tribe in Kenya as an expression of sympathy to the people of America. Read this picture book aloud and invite your students to think about the various ways that people seek to provide empathy and comfort to people who have experienced grief or difficulties. Ask students to draw and/or write about ways that they have or could provide comfort to someone in need.
3 and up
  • Oral Histories. Your intermediate students weren’t born, and your middle school students weren’t walking ten years ago, and most likely none of them have memories of that day. Have students interview their parents, guardians, grandparents, or neighbors about what they remember from that day. Have students compare and contrast the different memories, and create a class book.
  • Writing about Heroism. As tragic as the events were that day, they brought out the best in people. Who were the heroes of that day? What makes someone a hero? We often applaud the courageous efforts of the firefighers, police, and paramedics, but many of them refuse to view themselves as heroes because they feel they were just doing their job. And what about the ordinary citizens who performed heroic acts on that day? Use several of the books listed above to discuss these questions, but then go a step further and have students also use the books as mentor texts for writing narrative accounts, poems, or essays about heroism.
  • The Rising. Play your students one or several of the songs from Bruce Springsteen’s album The Rising, which came out just before the first anniversary of the attacks. You might want to compare and contrast the lyrics of two songs, to consider the ways in which Springsteen’s music and lyrics merge to create images of grief and hope. You might want to play “Empty Sky,” “The Rising,” “You’re Missing,” or “Into the Fire.” You can find the songs on iTunes at: .

  • 911 The Book of Help. Have students, in pairs or small groups, read excerpts from 911 The Book of Help. Have students compare and contrast the different experiences represented, and discuss how the genre each author selected helped shape mood and theme. Students may then want to capture their own thoughts about this tenth anniversary, using a variety of modalities and genres, and assemble a class book either digitally or in print.
Mary Ann Cappiello About Mary Ann Cappiello

Mary Ann is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former public school language arts and humanities teacher, she is a passionate advocate for and commentator on children’s books. Mary Ann is the co-author of Teaching with Text Sets (2013) and Teaching to Complexity (2015) and Text Sets in Action: Pathways Through Content Area Literacy (Stenhouse, 2021). She has been a guest on public radio and a consultant to public television. From 2015-2018, Mary Ann was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English's Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction (K-8) Committee, serving two years as chair.


  1. Such great titles to use in school to remember/remind our students of the timelessness of tragedy and heroism. I will look for some to share in our Inquiry Center at school. Thanks, Mare!

  2. Thank you for posting these wonderful book ideas about September 11.

    This is such a hard subject to cover, especially since my kiddos weren't even born when this happened.