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Use Literature to Teach Tolerance


Remembering September 11

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  • Arts & Humanities
    Language Arts, Literature
  • Social Studies

  • Civics


Pre K, K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Advanced

Brief Description

Commemorate 9/11 by reading aloud each day that week a new children's book that focuses on the theme of tolerance. Book list included.



  • listen as teachers read aloud.
  • join in a discussion about each book.
  • write a paragraph each day to tell how that day's book taught the importance of tolerance.


literature, tolerance, 9/11, September, respect

Materials Needed

Select books from the list in the Lesson Plan below, or use your favorite books for teaching about tolerance.

Lesson Plan

Children's books are useful for starting discussions about such sensitive topics as tolerance. Teachers of older students might read those same picture books (try it -- the students will respond!) or the teacher might read aloud each day a chapter or two from a young-adult novel. The list of books below represents a cross-section of those that might be used to teach tolerance of other cultures and ways of life.

Each day, the teacher might ask students to write brief paragraphs that summarize the lessons the book taught about tolerance or their feelings after listening to the story.

by Mary Hoffman
Although schoolmates tell Grace that she can't be Peter Pan in the upcoming play because she is a girl and black, her mother and grandmother lovingly reaffirm all possibilities. Thus convinced, Grace wins the part, acting out a magical Peter Pan to universal acclaim. [Hornbook] Ages 4-8.

by Lois Lowry
When her father leaves to fight in World War II, Elizabeth goes with her mother and sister to her grandfather's house, where she learns to face up to the always puzzling and often cruel realities of the adult world. ALA Notable Book. Ages 9-12.

by Virginia Fleming
A boy with Down's syndrome eventually wins the respect of two reluctant children by leading them to special places in the woods near their homes. The gentle, carefully wrought tale both directly and allegorically conveys appreciation of differences. [Hornbook] Ages 4-8.

by Dolly Parton
Winter is coming to Tennessee and there's no money to buy a new coat, so a little girl's mama sews one for her out of rags. The little girl wears it to school proudly, and when the other children laugh, she gives them a quick lesson about what it means to be rich. Judith Sutton's beautiful paintings bring one of Dolly Parton's best-loved songs to life. Ages 4-8.

by Margaret Merrifield
Set in a multicultural daycare, Come Sit By Me is about Karen and her friends. One child, Nicholas, is often sick and absent from school. Eventually the children find out that Nicholas has AIDS. When Karen's parents hear that the other children are leaving Nicholas out, they help organize a meeting to address the fears of both caregivers and children. Ages 4-8.

by Cheryl Savageau
A young girl learns from a Seneca creation story told to her by her grandfather -- a lesson of knowing who you are and staying strong in the face of hurtful criticism. This book is a treasure for all who have dealt with the fear of being different. [Ingram] Ages 4-8.

by Rukhsana Khan
This collection of short stories, poems, and prose examines the world through the eyes of Muslim children. Written especially for North American children, both Muslim and non-Muslim, each story represents a tenet of Islam in a way that is both entertaining and enlightening. Non-fiction sidebars help explain and amplify the Islamic references. Some stories are humorous, others are touching, but all are compelling stories of children learning and growing within their culture. Ages 9-12.

by Marie G. Lee
Chan Kim has never felt like an outsider in his life -- until his family moves from Los Angeles to a tiny town in Minnesota. The Kims are the only Asian family in town, and when Chan and his twin sister, Young, attend high school, it's a blond-haired, blue-eyed whiteout. Young adult.

by Tomie dePaola
Oliver Button would rather read, dance, and draw pictures than play football like the other boys. His classmates' taunts don't stop him from doing what he likes best, and his practice and persistence pay off in the end -- when Oliver Button is a star. [Ingram] Ages 4-8.

by Jacqueline Woodson
Clover, the young African American narrator, lives beside a fence that segregates her town. Her mother instructs her never to climb over to the other side because it isn't safe. But one summer morning, Clover notices a girl on the other side. Both children are curious, and as the summer stretches on, Clover and Annie work up the nerve to introduce themselves. Ages 4-8.

by Laurence Yep
It is 1927, and Joan Lee and her family have just moved to West Virginia to open a laundry and start new lives. But the Lees are the first Chinese Americans that Clarksburg has ever seen, and not everyone in town is ready to welcome them. [Ingram] Young adult.

by Peter Golenbock
This is the moving story of how Jackie Robinson became the first black player on a major-league baseball team and how, on a fateful day in Cincinnati, PeeWee Reese took a stand and declared Jackie his teammate. Ages 4-8.

by Margy Burns Knight
Nary, a Cambodian refugee in the United States, learns a new language and delights in the bountiful food supply but encounters confusing prejudices at school. [Hornbook] Ages 9-12.

by Norma Simon
Some people can't eat chocolate, and some are good at whistling. Some people are tall; some are short. People want different things for their birthdays. If we were all the same, it would be like seeing everything in gray -- boring. [Ingram] Ages 4-8.

by Charlotte Zolotow
More than anything, William wants a doll. "Don't be a creep," says his brother. "Sissy, sissy," chants the boy next door. Then one day, someone really understands William's wish and makes it easy for others to understand, too. Pre-K.

by Joyce Durham Barrett
Willie stops hugging his family because his friend Jojo thinks it's silly, but he soon realizes that he really misses his mom's and dad's hugs. Ages 4-8.


Students share their feelings about the books and ideas about how the lessons in those books might help build a world free from intolerance.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

See more lessons at September 11: Lessons and Resources for Classroom Teachers. Click to return to the Remembering September 11 lesson plan page.


Last updated 08/15/2011