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Home » Blog » Literacy » Read Alouds » 11 Patriot Day Books for the Elementary Classroom

11 Patriot Day Books for the Elementary Classroom

Fall, Literacy, Read Alouds

Written by: Mary Kate Bolinder

On Patriot Day, we honor and remember the people who lost their lives in the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. We also honor the first responders who risked their lives to help others on that day and beyond. This collection of picture book read-alouds provides age-appropriate descriptions of the events of that day.

Someday, despite all my wishes they could maintain their innocence forever, our children will learn of the evil, hatred, and terror on that day. But do you know what we have to teach them first?

They will learn about kindness.

About bravery, and people giving their all to help total strangers in need.

They will learn about love and resilience.

And most importantly, they will learn about hope, and know that they have the ability to create a better, brighter future for themselves and others.

Literature has the power to help us heal, and helps us to approach difficult subjects when we just don't have the words. When you are ready to talk about this day with your students, this collection of books focuses on stories of kindness, love, and hope.

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Picture Books About September 11, 2001

1. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

Written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein

This Caldecott-Winning picture book tells the true story of Philippe Petit. In 1974, Petit strung a tightrope between the Twin Towers and performed a stunning aerial show, high above the city of Manhattan. With a gentle acknowledgment of the tragic events nearly 30 years later, this story is rooted in wonder, perseverance, and hope.

2. Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey

Written and illustrated by Maira Kalman

This beautifully illustrated book tells the true story of the John J. Harvey, a fireboat and rescue boat, and the heroic people who sailed on her that fateful September day.

3. Survivor Tree

Written by Marcie Colleen, illustrated by Aaron Becker

Survivor Tree tells the true story of a pear tree that survived through the ashes of the Twin Towers attack. With loving care from a dedicated group of arborists, the scarred tree was nurtured and replanted at the 9/11 Memorial. A teaching guide for the book can be found here. Keep reading for more books about this incredible tree.

4. This Very Tree

Written and illustrated by Sean Rubin

5. Branches of Hope

Written by Ann Magee, illustrated by Nicole Wong

6. 30,000 Stitches

Written by Amanda Davis, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

A tattered American flag hung near Ground Zero in the days following September 11th. The very same flag that blew in the New York breeze has traveled around the country as a symbol of hope and rebuilding. Over time, the flag was repaired and stitched with threads and bits of flags from cities and states across the country.

7. The Man in the Red Bandana

Written by Honor Crowther Fagan, illustrated by John Crowther

The Man in the Read Bandana tells the story of Welles Crowther, who rescued many people from the South Tower of the World Trade Center before its fall. His heroism and bravery are retold in this book, written by his sister.

8. 14 Cows for America

Written by Carmen Agra Deedy & Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

In 2002, the Maasai people of western Kenya gifted the United States 14 cows. 14 cows may seem like an unusual gift, but for the Maasai people, it can be seen as one of the greatest gifts of all. This gentle story focuses on friendship and the light of hope.

9. September 12th

Written and illustrated by the first grade students of H. Byron Masterson Elementary

On September 12, 2001, Americans woke up to a country forever changed. But as the first grade students of H. Byron Masterson Elementary in Kennett, Missouri, observed – many comforting things remained the same. This book is a beautiful reminder of optimism and appreciation for the most important things in life.

Books About Patriotism

These books provide simple yet stunning examples of the beauty, diversity, and traditions that celebrate the United States.

10. Blue Sky White Stars

Written by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

11. What Does it Mean to Be American?

By Rana DiOrio and Elad Yoran, illustrated by Nina Mata

At the end of the day, hand out Patriot Day Brag Tags to help students remember the important discussions had.

How do you honor Patriot Day in your classroom? Please share with us in the comments below.


  1. Linda Brown

    Thank you! Such a great reference for such a difficult discussion.

  2. Laura Leigh Jackson

    Thank you so much for putting together a book list for our little ones! I’ve had trouble finding the right angle and resources to share this topic with my first graders, but I love how you focused on rebuilding, kindness, and bravery. I can’t wait to read these stories, and I’m sure they will impact all of us.


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