The Neighborhood

8 Tips on How to Talk to Your Kids about 9-11

“I think 9/11 is when someone dropped a bunch of bombs on New York.”
“I think it’s when we attacked Iran.”
“I think it was…I don’t know.”

#911 Memorial #eleventhebook #honor911 #teach911Those are real quotes from a sixth-grade class where I taught Eleven this year.

Their confusion is understandable, because many parents and teachers aren’t sure how to even start a conversation on such an emotional subject.

This morning, my publicist sent out my first press release: 8 Tips on How to Talk to Your Kids about 9-11. Here it is, in its entirety.

I’d love to hear how you learned (or talked to your kids) about 9/11! Email me at tom@eleventhebook.com or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

(A press kit and this release are available on the Eleven Press page.)

And as always, if you like this post, please repost/retweet/share! Thanks! 

Media Contact:
Eric Mosher
Sommerfield Communications
(212)-255-8386
Eric@sommerfield.com

WHAT’S THE FIRST STEP IN EXPLAINING 9/11 TO A CHILD TOO YOUNG TO REMEMBER? JUST TALK, SAYS TOM ROGERS, AUTHOR OF ELEVEN

Take Your Time, Listen, and Remember that Today’s Kids Didn’t Experience 9/11 the Same Way You Did – So They Might Not React the Same Way Either

New York (July 30, 2014) – It’s hard to imagine, but some kids in middle school today aren’t even sure what really happened on 9/11. Kids as old as thirteen weren’t even born yet, so their confusion is understandable.

As the next anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaches – the first one since the opening of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which is garnering visitors from around the world – how should adults talk to children about what happened on that day? The first and most important tip on how to talk to kids about 9/11 is simple – just start talking.

Tom Rogers, author of young adult novel Eleven, which tells the story of a boy who turns eleven on 9/11, has assembled a list of guidelines for adults struggling to explain the events of 9/11 to the kids in their lives.

He advises adults to…

  1. Just start talking. Is it a tough subject? Sure. But if you don’t teach them, they’ll hear about it from someone else, and there are a lot of strange theories and misinformed individuals out there. “Children should learn about that difficult time in a place where they feel safe – with you,” he says.
  1. Take your time. Stop frequently to let the children respond, and be attuned to their cues. “When they’ve heard enough, don’t push; when they’re ready to learn more, they’ll let you know,” Rogers advises.
  1. Keep it simple. “You don’t have to cover all 567 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report in one sitting,” says Rogers. Keep it brief at first, just touching on the main events in broad strokes. Be patient and go slowly.
  1. Remember the day’s heroes. “The horrors of that day speak for themselves. You can give voice to the hope that rose from the ashes. Talk about how the worst of times brought out the best in so many of us.”
  1. Use resources. There are a number of trustworthy places that specifically exist to introduce 9/11 to kids. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum has an excellent Teach+Learn section. Adults and children might also want to watch the 22-minute Nick News special, “What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001.”
  1. Don’t let crackpot theories go unchallenged. He recommends visiting Popular Mechanics’ fact-checked, detailed online page devoted to debunking 9/11 myths, and advises adults to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers about what happened and why.
  1. Be aware of your own emotions. It is a difficult subject, and talking about it can suddenly bring up long-buried feelings. Practice once or twice, so you’re not caught off-guard by your own reaction. “There’s no need to be cold or unemotional; if you well up, let your kids know why: that you’re just sad, and that’s okay,” Rogers says.
  1. Don’t be surprised by children’s reactions. Did you cry when you first heard about Pearl Harbor? Probably not. It wasn’t a personal memory; it was history. The attacks of 9/11 were something adults lived, but it’s only history to a kid. Children may be upset when they learn more about 9/11, or they may just shrug it off. Both responses are valid. The important thing is that they begin the journey toward knowledge and understanding.

“As another anniversary approaches, and your children continue to hear about it from their peers and on TV, they may come to you with questions, unsure about what really happened,” added Rogers. “This is your chance to help them understand.”

For more information about Eleven, please visit the website here. To schedule a conversation with Tom Rogers, please contact Eric Mosher of Sommerfield Communications at (212) 255-8386 or Eric@Sommerfield.com.

About Tom Rogers

Tom Rogers is a novelist and the screenwriter of numerous animated films, including The Lion King 1½Kronk’s New GrooveLEGO: The Adventures of Clutch Powers, and Disney’s Secret of the Wings. Eleven, the journey of a boy who turns eleven on September 11th, 2001, is his first novel for young adults.

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Without Courage

Speak the Speech

I recently had the honor of giving the commencement speech to the eighth graders culminating from William Jefferson Clinton Middle School in South Los Angeles.

Go Eagles!

Rogers commencement speech at Clinton Middle School culmination 2014

A few quick facts about Clinton (taken from their website): it’s an inner-city middle school serving 900 students in a “predominantly commercial warehouse/industrial district that also resides in one of Los Angeles’s gang reduction zones.”

The majority of the students’ parents and guardians are not high school graduates, and 80% of the students speak a language other than English at home.

Given those circumstances, I was especially impressed to learn that fifty percent (109 of 218) of the eighth-grade graduates made the honor roll; 64 had perfect attendance since the sixth grade; and 31 culminated with straight As. Bravo!

Rogers commencement speech at Clinton Middle School culmination 2014
Rogers commencement speech at Clinton Middle School culmination 2014

A huge share of the credit for this success belongs to Principal Sissi O’Reilly, who came onboard in 2011 to initiate a series of comprehensive reforms to improve academics, behavior, and attendance.

Sissi, her dedicated staff and teachers, and a small army of volunteer tutors and mentors (from Diplomas Now, Talent Development Secondary, City Year, and Communities in Schools) have poured countless hours into providing the students of Clinton a rigorous academic program with high standards and expectations.

In other words, they’re giving these students the education they deserve.

Rogers commencement speech at Clinton Middle School culmination 2014

Sissie selfie (with photobomb guy)

Rogers commenement speech at Clinton Middle School culmination 2014

Clinton teachers and staff

Trippingly on the Tongue*

The ceremony took place at the impressive Bovard Auditorium on the campus of USC, just across the freeway from Clinton.

Rogers commencement speech at Clinton Middle School culmination 2014
Rogers commencement speech at Clinton Middle School culmination 2014

I’m new to public speaking in a venue this big. So I figured I’d be a little nervous. And I know that when you’re nervous, you tend to speak too fast.

That’s why I wrote the note above ALL OVER MY SPEECH.

I started off like I was shot out of a cannon. (Eventually, tongue fatigue applied the brakes.)

But I hope the point of the speech came through. It was about what it means to be a hero when you’re in eighth grade (or just turning eleven, like Alex in Eleven).

It’s also about a time I had a chance to be a hero. And failed.

In the speech, I used a favorite quote from Maya Angelou as inspiration:

“Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”

Rogers speech at Clinton Middle School commencement

(AP Photo/Press-Register, John David Mercer)

So here’s my first commencement speech. If you care to follow along with a transcript (I’m guessing this applies to only two people, known to me as “Mom” and “Dad”), click here:  Rogers speech at Clinton MS transcript.

[EDIT, 7 July 2014: this original post also included video of the entire ceremony, since I thought some of the graduates might enjoy seeing themselves onstage receiving their diplomas. However, I’ve since removed the video due to a concern about parental permissions for videotaping. My apologies for the error.) 

Congratulations again to the Clinton graduates of 2014! May you go forward in life with courage.

* Bonus points for any of you middle-schoolers who can identify this reference.

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Pawtographs

We held a book signing last month at Chevalier’s Books, a fabulous independent bookstore in LA’s Larchmont Village.Chevalier Banner

We had a HUGE turnout — Radar and I signed and sold nearly 70 books that day.

Chevalier's Book signing - Eleven
Chevalier's Book signing - Eleven

Here, at last, are some pictures from the big event. Thanks to Chevalier’s owner Filis Winthrop and manager Erica Luttrell and to everyone who came out to Chevalier’s on a Saturday afternoon to support the book!

You can find Chevalier’s on the web here, buy books from them here, and follow them on Facebook here. The folks there are delightful, they support local authors, and they’re just fun to talk to, so stop on by!

And an extra special shout-out to Cathy Kim, the Santillis, and the Barnes/Kuhn/Dittlinger family, all of whom bought a bunch of extra copies to give to friends, teachers, and librarians. (Apologies to the B/K/D clan for not getting you all in one photo.)

Chevalier's Book signing - Eleven

Cathy Kim

Chevalier's Book signing - Eleven

Ann and Lauren Santilli

Chevalier's Book signing - Eleven

Sheila Barns, Teddy Barnes, Robert Kuhn

Chevalier's Book signing - Eleven

Sheila Barnes, Mary Ann Barnes

Chevalier's Book signing - Eleven

David Dittlinger

YA novelist Kathy McCullough (author of Don’t Expect Magic and Who Needs Magic?) dropped by and brought along her friend, children’s author Suzy Becker (left) and Suzy’s daughter, Aurora. Check out Suzy’s charming blog here, and Kathy’s here.

Chevalier's book signing - Eleven

Suzy, Aurora, and Kathy

And last but not least…everyone else!

(Thanks to event photographer/blogwife Jennifer Casey for taking pictures!)

[Click any image to start a slideshow.]

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We also had a special signing later for our friends Tom and Suzanne Masenga (left, with Mike Sfregola and Sue Shanley), who bought several copies to give as gifts. Thanks, guys!

Masenga Sfregola

 

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