Learning About 9/11 Through Books


Creative Commons Usage. Photo by Wally G.

The morning of September 11, 2001 started as a beautiful sunny day in New York City. By lunchtime, life as we knew it in America  had changed completely. The attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, along with the crash of the 4th plane in Pennsylvania have since influenced adult lives in numerous ways.

Now it’s ten years later, and the children we have in elementary school have no memory of the events on 9/11/2001. They either weren’t born, or were too young to remember the day. How do you talk to children who have no connection to this piece in American history?

In the intermediate library classes, I decided our lessons would be about the events of 9/11.

 this approach would give the students would have some factual knowledge about 9/11. I think history is a lot less scary when it’s talked about openly and honestly.

 We started the 5th and 6th grade lessons with the basic question, what do you know about September 11, 2001?

“Two planes crashed…”

“Planes crashed into the Twin Towers and they fell down…”

“I don’t know”

“There was a terrorist attack…”

What question do you have about this day?

” I want more details about the day.”

“Why do terrorists do what they do?”

“What really happened on 9/11?”


After we collected these questions, the students heard the book, America Is Under Attack by Don Brown.


According the the book description:


The events of September 11, 2001 changed the world forever. ….  Don Brown narrates the events of the day in a way that is both accessible and understandable for young readers. Straightforward and honest, this account moves chronologically through the morning, from the plane hijackings to the crashes at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania; from the rescue operations at the WTC site to the collapse of the buildings. Vivid watercolor illustrations capture the emotion and pathos of the tragedy making this an important book about an unforgettable day in American history.”

When the book was over, the students then shared a thought, a word, a feeling or a sentence about a fact they had learned from hearing the book.

 Their ideas were written on anonymous Post-in notes and placed on the front board.

“Sad, painful, angry, why?” were the typical responses.

 One student wrote,

“I feel sad and mad for the people who lost their lives in the events that happened that day.”

I am hopeful that the students walked away with some new information that answered their previous questions.


In fourth grade, I introduced the event of 9/11 by showing some of the fact books and we talked briefly about the significance of September, 11, 2001.
 Then we read, Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman.
This book tells the story of how the retired and then restored John J. Harvey fireboat contributed toward fighting the fires at the World Trade Center.

The third graders read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein.



This Caldecott Medal winner is about the tightrope walker, Philippe Petit, who walked on a tight rope between the Twin Towers on August 7, 1974 before the towers were finished being built. For almost an hour, Petit walked, danced, ran and knelt upon the wire. At one point he even lay down to rest on it! This book does reference that the towers are gone at the end, but the main emphasis of the story is on the performance Petit gave in 1974.


Students who are interested in learning more about this American event can check out:

14 Cows for America presents an illustrated tale of a gift of fourteen cows given by the Maasai people of Kenya to the U.S. as a gesture of comfort and friendship in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001.


 The 9-11 Tribute book tells the story of the attack on the Twin towers primarily through photographs and captions.


What did you learn about 9/11 in class?
If you are a visitor,
 what did you learn about 9/11 at your school?




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15 thoughts on “Learning About 9/11 Through Books

  1. Dear Bulldogs,

    9-11 was a difficult day. Like Pearl Harbor from World War II, America was shocked. Since we are protected on our east and west borders with an ocean, the United States is rarely attacked. This year, I read 14 Cows for America to the 49’ers. We were touched by a village giving up their most precious resource as a way to mourn with us. Their cows are like our money, so it was a big sacrifice.

    On our blog, we wrote a post to thank community helpers around the world and are inviting bloggers to leave a comment thanking their community heroes, too. In San Antonio, we are thanking our firefighters for protecting us from the wildfires.

    Sometimes I struggle with feeling angry about 9-11, but then I’m reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr., philosophy: hate cannot drive away hate; only love can do that.

    Mrs. Kistler
    A Prospecting 49’er

    • Dear Mrs. Kistler,
      I first time I read 14 Cows for America I found myself tearing up. The thoughtfulness of people thousands of miles away from America is completley unbelievable. I have read it to some of my classes before and they were also moved.
      It sounds like your students are really working hard to thank those who help others. Fighting wildfires is a hot and dangerous job! I hope that none of the fires reached your home or area.
      Thanks so much for commenting and I hope you are having a great start to the school year. We just got our technology connected and working in the library, so soon I will be able to show our students your wonderful blog!
      Mrs. Hembree

  2. Dear.Mrs .Hembree thank you for telling what happen on 911. I fell sad that every person died. Think that 199 is really important . You student Alex. P.S. i hope you visit me and say happy birthday on my birthday.

    • Dear Alex,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the lesson on 9/11. It is a very horrible chapter of our history and is normal to feel sad about it. Many adults feel the same way.
      I would visit you in your classroom on your birthday, but I don’t know when it is! Is it soon? I have one coming up too!
      Mrs. Hembree

  3. Dear Mrs.Hembree , I will give you a hint it is near October 23.That is my hint for you so if you figure out that day. So think about when is my birth day so think hard. This is no joke bye for now.Form Alex.

  4. Dear Mrs Hembree,

    This is a day that really pulls at your heart. It’s so sad that something so awful like this could have happened. I will remember this day for the rest of my life.

    What a lovely gesture from the people of Kenya it is amazing who many people want to give from the kindness of their hearts.
    I will have to look out for this book.

    It is so important to remember and thank you for sharing with us this moving post.

    Now I read you have a birthday coming up when is it Mrs Hembree?

    From your pal down under,

    • Dear AA,
      If you ever have the chance to read 14 Cows for America with BB, I can assure you that you wil both be moved by the graciousness and generosity of the Maasai tribe in Kenya. The story is a wonderful one and the illustrations are outstanding.

      As fara as teaching about 9/11 is concerned, I remember a teacher in high school telling me, “if we don’t learn our history, we are doomed to repeat it.” My teacher changed the original quote by Edmund Burke, who wrote in the 1700’s, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Until I heard that quote, I really didn’t understand why I should be interested in history. Up to then, it was a complete bore. I changed that day and realized he was right. When I can teach children about our history in an interesting way, I hope that perhaps it will help them shape our future in a positive manner.

      As far as a birthday is concerned, yes, it’s coming up soon. I will tell you in a math riddle. Start with 25. Add 10. Take that number and subtract 15. Take that number and add 5. Subtract 20 from the total. The secret number is my birthday. Do you know when it is now?
      Say hello to BB for me!
      Your friend,
      Mrs. Hembree

  5. Dear Mrs.Hembree, Yes you are correct It is on the 24th. It is excited on the party it is on the 23th on October. Hope that you do a great job working on the post. If it was AA or BB tell them or both hi for me OK? Are you having new books for library and are you having the book sale? Is the library open.
    your Student Alex.H.

    • Dear Alex,
      the really great part about blogging is that all the comments are available for everyone to see. I imagine that BB and AA will see your comment and know that you said hello! I will also mention it to them. Perhaps you would like to visit BB’s own blog. You can find it on on my blog roll. BB’s Awesome Blog!
      The library will be open next week during the recesses! Yea! It took awhile, but we are finally open! The book fair is coming the first week of October when you can buy books. It will be great!
      See you Monday!
      Mrs. Hembree

  6. 11 September 2001 was definitely a shocking and tragic day for America, however I remember the day clearly and many of us in Australia also felt the fear and horror as the news channels broadcasted the turn of events. It did seem like the end of the world, hate can not destroy hate however the Bush administration did take a very bold step and I believe it was necessary to protect America and the rest of the world against any more inhumane acts.

    • Dear Irene,
      Thank you for your thoughtful response to our post. I believe many people around the world were horrified by the events of 9/11. We are not a separate world –with the internet and social networking, we are all connected with just a click the the keyboard.
      I hope you will visit aour blog again sometime soon. Do you also have a blog for students?

      Mrs. Hembree

  7. Dear Mrs Hembree,
    Heartbreaking post.

    A lot of people feel sorry for these people who lost there lives.

    I have not read a book about 9/11.

    Some people say this the day the world changed I think it is very sad.

    Stay safe.

    From your pal,

    • Dear Bianca,
      So great to hear from you! It is such a busy time here and I think it probably is for you too!

      Are you on holiday for a week between terms? Will you do anything special during the week? Are you reading any new books???

      I have had a number of students checking out the Bindi book series! Now I have to get more of them!

      I look forward to reading what you post on your blog this week. Also, Alex a student at my school, says to say “Hello” to you! I hope her visits your blog!

      Your Seattle friend,
      Mrs. Hembree

  8. @ Mrs Hembree,

    Thank you for writing back to me.
    I bet you have been busy getting ready for the new school year and your new school.

    Yes I am on holidays right now for two weeks. I am planning to spend some time with my nanna’s and poppy and cousins. I plan to re visit Ballart as well and go to the movies.

    That is so great your Bulldog Readers want to check out the Bindi books they are pretty awesome books to read.

    Say hello to Alex from me I would love to hear from her one day. 🙂

    From your pal,

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