By: Mary Reid

For years I kept a stone in a drawer in my kitchen. Why, you ask?  Because my kids and I needed it to make stone soup! The classic story, Stone Soup, tells about a weary traveler who arrives in a village hungry and without food. None of the villagers wish to share food with him until he says he can make soup from a stone. The villagers offer first an onion, and finally some juicy beef bones.

Every time we made soup, we’d turn it into stone soup and together would chant the refrain, "Fancy that, soup from a stone,” and "It tastes good now but it would taste better if we had some juicy beef bones."

Our children loved making stone soup for years, always using the same smooth white stone. As a family, we had fun chanting, “Soup from a stone. Fancy that?” but the lesson was deeper. We talked about the gist of being generous - a family value we wanted to pass down to our children.

Cooking offers a wonderful way to bring what we learn from books into our daily life.  While cooking we build relationships, engage the senses and develop literacy skills.

Many classic children's stories lend themselves to cooking with children. Here are some examples:

Goldilocks and the Three Bears:  The story of the Three Bears is a predictable story and one easily sequenced by young children due to the repetition (Papa Bear’s big items, Mama Bear’s middle sized things and Baby Bear’s tiny things). Sequencing is a skill that is needed in daily life, as well as in reading and math comprehension.  And of course this story begs for a porridge meal (oatmeal, cream of wheat, etc.) Children will, of course, want theirs "Just right," just like Goldilocks.   

Green Eggs and Ham, by: Dr. Seuss: Add a little green food coloring into scrambled eggs for your child after reading the book together. If your picky eater doesn't like the look of green eggs, ask him "Would you eat them in the boat? Would you eat them with a goat?" He may reply, "I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I Am." Who can deny Dr. Seuss as the king of rhyme? Learning to rhyme is a skill needed before children learn to read. Many adults remember the rhymes from Dr. Seuss books and making time to rhyme with children is a fun way to learn this skill.

Pancakes, Pancakes, by: Eric Carle: This book illustrates the old fashion way to make pancakes beginning with graining the flour. Follow the author’s lead and take the time to make pancakes from scratch with your child. (You don’t need a mix - pancakes require just a few ingredients.) Foster writing and math skills by creating a pictorial version of your own pancake recipe with your child, making simple drawings to depict the ingredients. For example, you can say: “We used two eggs, Can you make a drawing that shows how many eggs we need for this recipe?”

You and your children will build relationships, engage your senses and develop literacy skills by reading and cooking together.

Read and eat, that's my philosophy.

Mary Reid, a nine-year veteran Pre-K teacher, reads and eats with her students at Glanton-Hindsman Elementary School in Villa Rica, GA.  When she’s not at school, she enjoys reading for pleasure and listening to live Bluegrass music with her husband.