Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
He points at the ledge we’ve been leaning on. Names. I was drawn to the holes. The water. My mind didn’t connect the markings. Names. Hundreds. Thousands of names.
About this Book
Deja is a young girl living in a homeless shelter in New York City and is about to begin her first day of fifth grade in a new school. She is befriended by Ben and Sabeen. Through the careful crafting of these characters the author shows us three very different perspectives on the September 11th terrorist attack. Deja's family is experiencing hardships because her father suffers from crippling PTSD as a survivor of the Twin Towers collapse. Ben is also new to the school. His parents separated after his father returned from active duty in Afghanistan. Sabeen is kind, popular and full of positivity. Although she has a happy family, they are Muslim and must deal with racism and discrimination. As the three friends learn about the history of 9/11, the reader learns about each of their different experiences as well as how their lives have been impacted by this tragedy. In the beginning, Deja is frustrated and believes that learning about the past does not make your life better, or put bread on the table. As the students learn about what it means to be a part of a social group, Deja learns that everyone/ everything is connected through their shared history, even though their experience may be different. She also learns how even though 9/11 happened before they were born, it has had a major impact in shaping her current situation and that it also affected the lives of her friends in different ways.
Common Sense Media rates this book as appropriate fro kids ages 10+. Read their reviewHERE.
Read a sample of this book HERE.
Why do we bother to study/examine the past?
Why do we memorialize tragic events in our history?
What is the importance of a shared History to a society?
What is a social group and what are the individual’s responsibilities to the group as well as the group’s responsibilities to the individual?
First Course: Building Background Knowledge
Pairing: Novel + Multimedia Text Set + Short Story
Towers Falling is a coming of age story. When introducing the idea of coming of age to middle school students, I focus on dynamic characters that change over the course of a story through their struggle with a conflict. Coming of age involves a loss of innocence as a character gains new knowledge about the world and our place within the structure of society. Introducing these complex ideas through a short story before reading this novel can be helpful. The short story, "What do Fish Have to do with Anything?", is the perfect text for introducing this genre to your students before reading "Towers Falling". Both texts explore the thematic topics of homelessness, poverty, and have a main character that learns something about a parent that is struggling with sadness.
To give the students some background knowledge about the historical context of the novel, I created a multimedia text set that includes articles and videos about 9/11. I use the 3-2-1 strategy from Making Thinking Visible to assess students background knowledge of 9/11 before and after exploring the text set.
Second Course: Exploring the Topics of Homelessness and Hunger
Pairing: Novel + Online Article + TED Talk + Photo Essay + Infograph
What is Home? Picture Book + Novel Pairing
Third Course: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Pairing: Novel + Article + News Video
Final Course: Memorials and Inspiration
Pairing: Novel + Virtual Field Trip
In the novel, Deja decides that she must go to the place where the Twin Towers once stood to understand her father. She skips school with Ben to visit the 9/11 memorial site. There are some great online resources that can allow your students to experience the 9/11 memorial site from anywhere in the world, without having to miss school.
Pairing: Novel + Documentary + Music = Inspiration
An opportunity for students to recognize how people not only survive, but can even thrive when faced with unthinkable challenges.
"When Brook Peters set out to make his film about living through 9/11 as a child, he didn’t realize THE SECOND DAY would convey a universal story of inner strength and resilience that could inspire people around the world. In response to Brook’s Show Your Strength Campaign, over 150 young people submitted their personal stories of courage and hope. And the band Simple Plan supported the campaign by offering their song 'What If'."
-From the SHOW YOUR STRENGTH campaign started by documentary filmmaker Brook Peters
Share your story, change the world: from the Show Your Strength campaign that stemmed from Brooke Peters' documentary "The Second Day".
Get the Lesson:
There are many more lessons to explore, including a project in which students create a Google MyMap of 9/11 memorials around the world. Click on the "Towers Falling" Hyperdoc button below. After reviewing the lesson, if you decide that you would like to use some or all of it with your class just click on file > make a copy. This will place a copy of my lesson in your Google Drive and will allow you to edit the lesson to fit the needs of your students.
What to read next:
If you have other text recommendations, please share them in the comments below.
I am an English teacher, Curriculum Designer, and Instructional Coach that is passionate about literature.
In each post I will offer a review of a young adult novel and suggestions for text pairings. These posts will often include links to digital resources for teaching the content referenced in the post, as well as digital lessons (I use Google Docs) which you can download for free. Subscribe to my blog so that you can get an email notification when a new book is highlighted.