How do you talk to children about the 10th anniversary of September 11? There is no happy ending. Reading a picture book to initiate a conversation about those horrible events presents challenges because, unlike the final pages of most books written for young children, the final page can’t convey that the characters lived “happily ever after.”
There is lots of advice about how to talk with children about September 11 – from people far more qualified than I am to give it. But if I were asked to select books for kids to share with their parents on a day when we are focused on loss, I would recommend books about people who dedicate their lives to helping – firefighters and police officers. Today, listening to NPR, I heard a man who was in the World Trade Center that day and was able to escape. The image that most stays with him, he said, is that of firefighters continuing to climb the stairs to help people even as their radios told them to get out. It was incredibly sobering to hear the man’s voice cracking when he remembered people who lost their lives while trying to save others.
That’s where to focus our conversations with children on this 10th anniversary – on the sacrifices made by our fellow citizens and the risks they take every day to make us safer.
Here are five of my favorite books for children, the first three for children ages three to six and the last two are for older kids.
Fireman Small by Wong Herbert Yee (One of my son’s favorites when he was little. A cozy book about the heroic efforts of a small, but determined, firefighter. He even gets a cat out of a tree!)
Fireman Small: Fire Down Below! (Another rhyming adventure about our brave hero)
Police Officers on Patrol by Kersten Hamilton (“When people need help, we rock and roll!”)
Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman (a fireboat built in 1931 is called back into service in September 2011)
New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne (based on the real life story of 19th century New York firefighter Mose Humphrey)