Is This Coloring Book About 9/11 Really Appropriate For Kids?
Like most Americans over the age of 15 or 16, I’ll never forget where I was on September 11, 2011. I had just walked into the first class of my college career when I was told to return to my dorm room because there had been some kind of accident in New York City (my college, Monmouth University, was roughly an hour from the city but tensions were high and people had absolutely no idea what was going on at the time). Despite all the confusion surrounding the 9/11 attacks, I can remember many of the events of that day vividly.
However, I understand that there are many people out there—mostly those kids who were too young to understand what was going on during the September 11th attacks and those children who weren’t even born yet—who don’t remember 9/11 at all. So naturally, with the tenth anniversary coming up on Sunday, there have been a number of different organizations coming up with ways to put 9/11 into perspective for him. One of the craziest ways it’s being done, though, is through the use of a coloring book called We Shall Never Forget 9/11: The Kids’ Book of Freedom.
Now, before we start, let me say that I am all for teaching today’s youth about what happened on 9/11 and how it impacted the nation and the rest of the world. It’s not only a big piece of recent history, but in terms of U.S. history, it’s one of the most important days in this nation’s history. But what the makers of this coloring book are trying to do is ludicrous.
On the surface, using a coloring book to illustrate the events that took place on 9/11 seems innocent enough. But one glance at this coloring book lets me know that it’s more of a cash grab than a genuine effort at trying to educate children. For starters, the book allows kids to color things like the burning Twin Towers—let me say that again, the burning Twin Towers—and Navy Seals pointing guns at Osama Bin Laden. Frankly, some of the images shown in the coloring book are not suitable for adults let alone young kids and they could have been done more tastefully.
The language used within the coloring book doesn’t help matters, either. The word “Muslim” is often accompanied by the word “extremist” or “terrorist,” which is something that America’s mainstream media made a conscious effort not to do after September 11 in order to avoid stereotyping Muslim people. By doing this, the book reaffirms the belief that all Muslims are terrorists who want to cause harm to America. It’s irresponsible and it’s something that the editors of the book should have thought about a little more before allowing it to go to print.
And maybe most importantly of all, the coloring book doesn’t really appear to benefit anyone. Essentially what you’ve got here is a coloring book that’s making someone out there rich and not necessarily helping the victims of 9/11 or the families of the victims of 9/11. Really Big Coloring Books Inc., the company that’s publishing the book, is donating a portion of the profits from the book to a company called Bridges For Peace that attempts to build relationships between Christians and Jews, but even that feels a little empty. There’s something that just feels very wrong about turning a profit off 9/11, especially as the rest of the country prepares to honor those who were killed on September 11, 2001 ten years later.
Maybe I’m overthinking this. But if I was buying a book for my kid about 9/11, it wouldn’t be this one. I wouldn’t want him or her trying to stay in between the lines as he or she colors in the Twin Towers on fire. I wouldn’t want to trivialize the importance of the event. I would want them to remember 9/11 like I remember 9/11, not like the makers of a coloring book want them to remember it.
So rather than buying your son or your niece or your godchild this book, sit down and talk with them about 9/11. Unfortunately, many of us had to live through 9/11 and see the impact that it had on the country. But that gives us all a unique perspective that no coloring book could ever possibly give our children. So let’s leave this book on store shelves and use that to our advantage.