For most of us adults, September 11 brings back vivid memories of where we were and how we felt on that historic and tragic day in 2001. Yet to our children, this event is as distant as anything else in a history book, happening well before they were born.

But unlike the Civil War or D-Day, this is a historic event we personally experienced. Our recollections and memories are something valuable we can share with our children and help them develop a greater understanding of the event and respect for those who lost their lives.

A Gentle, Direct Approach

Children will see and hear mentions of September 11 on TV, online, at school, even on the radio on their way to soccer practice. So it’s important to be prepared for their questions so you’re not caught off guard. There’s no easy way to explain hard topics like terrorism, but this short, straightforward account on the Scholastic website is one of the best we’ve seen. You can read it yourself if your children are small and use it to answer their questions, or if your child is school age, read it together.

This Scholastic article does a good job of presenting the basic facts in a straightforward manner, so it makes a good jumping off place for questions, conversations, and your own memories of that day.

Read All About It

September 12th Book

Many wonderful and sensitive books have been written for kids about September 11, making this a perfect day for a trip to the library or downloading some ebooks. Here are some of our recommendations to get you started.

September 12, We Knew Everything Would Be All Right is a unique book written by the first graders of Masterson Elementary School and illustrated with their own drawings. Like many of the books for the youngest children, it shows only a little of the tragic events and then focuses on positives like the wave of patriotism that followed. It’s available for purchase online and can even be seen in this YouTube video, read aloud from cover to cover.

Fireboat Book

FIREBOAT: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman has huge visual appeal for kids age 5 and up. Through colorful, energetic illustrations and simple text, the story follows a retired fireboat from 1931 that became an unexpected, important part of the flotilla that helped save Lower Manhattan on September 11

Towers Falling from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes, is a powerful novel set fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks. Unlike books written at the time of the attacks, it talks about the role of memories and helps explain to kids 8 and up why so many adults seem emotional on this day.

What Were the Twin Towers? by Jim O’Connor was just published last year and takes a fresh perspective by focusing on the 1,368-foot skyscrapers, literally following their rise and fall. It’s a fascinating and informative read for kids 8 and up who have an interest in architecture and engineering as well as history.

Appreciating the Heroes of 9/11

Today gives us a great opportunity to talk to our children about the heroes of our communities, those men and women who actually rush toward danger in times of emergency. Police, paramedics and firemen are important role models for our children. It’s also very comforting for small children to know there are “good guys” on our side that we can turn to when things go wrong. Get creative with the kids in the kitchen and make cookies or cupcakes decorated with red licorice “firehoses,” Red Hots candy as sprinkles, or simple chocolate chip “Dalmatian” spots. Deliver them to your local firehouse and let your kids thank their heroes in person!

Red, White, and Blue

Many of us remember how the country came together in the days, weeks, and even months after 9/11. People were kinder to each other. Suddenly it was cool to show your patriotism by flying the American flag from your home or your car. Flag-themed clothing wasn’t just for the 4th of July anymore. The attack on our democracy and freedom made everyone appreciate them anew. Inspire patriotism in your kids by buying a new flag for your home and put it up together. Or get crafty and grab some plain white T-shirts and fabric paint and create your own star-spangled fashion statements! You can even brush up on some fun facts about the flag here: 

Though a somber day, September 11 can be a day of learning, gratitude, and positive life lessons for our kids.



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