Thursday, September 8, 2016

Teaching About September 11: My Favorite Read-Alouds

September 11. A day that we will never forget, but a day that most of our young students have never heard about.

I have two books that I read every year on September 11. I love them because they do not go into scary details, but they still make an impact on my students. 

I always open with the book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. The book depicts the story of Phillipe Petit, who walked between the towers on a tightrope in 1974. I first became fascinated with the story of Phillipe Petit when I read Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (an INCREDIBLE book if you haven't read it!!!) When I found the story in children's book form, I knew it would be one of my favorites. This book is great because it will get your students interested in the towers, the importance behind them, and the history that they held. The story ends by noting that the towers are no longer there, but that the memory of what Phillipe Petit did lives on. This ending always opens a discussion about the towers not being there anymore, which leads into the second book that I always read- 14 Cows for America

14 Cows for America is a story that holds a special place in my heart because it is the story of a Masai warrior in Kenya who hears about what happened on September 11 and is so hurt for Americans that he wants to give something to them. I have been blessed to have traveled to Kenya a few times and even know a few Masai, so this story means so much to me! I don't want to spoil the story for you, because it is beautiful and amazing (and the illustrations will make you say "WOW"), but just know that it is a story with so much heart and your students will surprise you with the maturity that they show in their reaction to it.

 Every year it always opens up so many incredible conversations about how we can help others who are hurting or sad, and how we can show compassion for others. 

After we read the two stories, we usually spend some time watching videos of Phillipe Petit walk between the towers. My goal is never to make my students upset or sad, just to start planting small seeds of knowledge about the day and its importance. 

I can honestly say that last year one of my kiddos at the END of the year told me that the story we read for September 11 was his favorite story all year. 
Those kids left my class knowing about the towers and that they no longer stand. They would see pictures of the towers in old books or in youtube videos about patriotic songs and they would say "Mrs. Browning, those are the buildings that the man walked between before they fell." One of our students suffered an incredible loss and another students said "we need to give him something for him to feel better just like that man gave away his cows." They may not know all of the scary details of the day and they may not know how many people lost their lives and everything that our country has gone through as a result of that day, but they know the stories. They were PROUD to know the bits of history that we read about. 
Isn't that what we want as teachers? To know that we are giving our students knowledge that they will be proud of, that will shape them and teach them not just content, but character as well? That's what I want, and what I hope to gift them with through these stories each year!

Do you have any September 11 traditions in your classroom? I'd love to hear about them!