Monthly Archives: February 2016

It’s Chinese New Year!

By Pamela Lafayette
Family Reading Partnership
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Gong Xi Fa Cai! Gung Hay Fat Choy! These are greetings expressed on Chinese New Year that bestow wishes to friends and family for a year of prosperity, good fortune, and wellbeing. Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in China and is celebrated in thousands of communities around the globe, from Nanfeng to New York City. The Chinese lunar calendar follows a twelve-year cycle, each year represented by an animal. This year, on February 8, we welcome the Year of the Monkey!

In ancient China, this festival offered hope and renewal for a new year after a hard winter. Today, celebrations are still rooted in tradition with Lion Dances, family customs of cleaning and decorating homes, buying new clothes, offering tokens for good fortune like Hong Bao (red envelopes), and most importantly, families gathering together. Parades with dragons dancing down the streets, firecrackers popping and whizzing from storefronts, colorful decorations strung from doorways, and lanterns zig-zagging from shop to shop, are some of the festivities that welcome in the new year with a BANG!

Children love to learn about cultures from around the world, hear and repeat new words and sounds, and travel within a story to explore traditions and celebrations. Luckily, there are dozens of wonderful children’s books about Chinese New Year, from board books to cookbooks, which do all these things and more.

In addition to the fanciful tales and festivities that stimulate the imagination and broaden a child’s view of the world, reading books about cultures and celebrations provide opportunities for families to talk about diversity and community, and all the possibilities awaiting them in a new year.

In the book, The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac discover how the Zodiac came to be, and how the cleverness and determination of a small rat impressed the Jade Emperor. In the book Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year, spend the morning with a young boy in Chinatown who is finally big enough to be part of a lion dance. In Dumpling Soup, meet a young girl and her large Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, and Haole family as they come together in Hawaii to celebrate and prepare a traditional midnight meal. Words and phrases in different languages throughout the book give depth and richness to the story, like adding spice and seasoning to the dumpling filling.

What is a dumpling? Preparing and sharing special foods are a large part of Chinese New Year, and many children’s books tempt our taste buds with descriptions and photographs of scrumptious dishes, and offer recipes for families to try.

By reading together about how families celebrate Chinese New Year, your family can join the excitement! Check out these books, and just listen for the POP, SIZZLE, and CRASH – because here comes Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year Book List:
The Dancing Dragon by Marcia Vaughan and Stanley W. Foon
Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Ratigan, illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders
Hiss! Boom! Pop! Celebrating Chinese New Year by Tricia Morrissey, illustrated by Kong Lee
Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin
The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Anne Wilson
Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s New Year by Kate Water, photographs by Martha Cooper
A World of Holidays: Chinese New Year by Catherine Chambers
Dragon Dance, a Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap book by Joan Holub, illustrated Benrui Huang
My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz
Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz and the Children’s Museum, illustrated by Meilo So

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Cookbooks Offer A Unique Literary Experience

 

 

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator
Family Reading Partnership

Reading and cooking are two of my favorite activities. That being said, cookbooks, naturally, are near and dear to my heart. Not only are they useful to adults looking to create a meal, they also offer a unique and important reading experience for children. Read on for ways to share the joy of cookbooks with the young ones in your life.

  • Cookbooks introduce children to interesting vocabulary. Words like simmer, juicy, mince, broil, and garlicky are all commonplace within recipes and help expand a child’s vocabulary and ability to use descriptive words. All while broadening their connection with food and other cultures. Read recipes aloud with your kids and ask them what they think these unique words mean. Then, by way of explanation, give them a demonstration of what broiling or mincing looks like and the opportunity to experience juicy or garlicky foods.
  • Recipes require reading a list and following written directions that combine numbers, symbols and words. Reading for information and then completing the necessary tasks builds confidence while creating something together and showing the importance of reading in real life. Having children help gather and prep ingredients is a great way to practice these skills. Gathering ingredients can be like a scavenger hunt and kids love to measure, pour, and stir!
  • There are many cookbooks that feature foods from favorite children’s books. These types of cookbooks expand a child’s experience and relationship with a story, allowing it to become an even more important part of his or her life. Other cookbooks offer a story within a recipe. Choose a book that has an accompanying cookbook and make one or several of the recipes that you read about in the story. Does what you made look or taste the same as it was described in the book?
  • Cookbooks for kids have fun with language and can make food more interesting for children. With a play on words, vegetables sound much more enticing when called carrot coins or broccoli spears. Check out a recipe for a dish, perhaps one that your child isn’t exactly fond of, and see if having your child follow the recipe and help create such items as ‘cool cucumber soup’ or ‘hide and seek muffins’ makes a difference in his or her desire to eat something he or she would normally not be interested in.
  • Perhaps the most important benefit of reading and cooking a recipe together is the opportunity for conversation with your child. Cooking lends its self naturally to making predictions, describing foods, and offering observations. To expand this experience, work together to compile a grocery list and shop for ingredients. You can take turns describing an ingredient and having the other one guess what ingredient it is.

Food and reading are both important factors of success. Our need for nourishing foods must be meet before we can feed a voracious appetite for reading. Early, frequent, and pleasurable experiences with books are vital to success in school and in all areas of life. Cookbooks help satisfy these two undeniable needs while giving children an interesting reading experience. Plus, your kids will know how to cook real food- and that’s never a bad thing.

Cookbooks to check out:
The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz
Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes by Roald Dahl
The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker
Writers in the Kitchen complied by Tricia Gardella
Pretend Soup By Mollie Katzen
Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers and Eaters by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and Philippe Beha

For a large assortment of cookbooks for both children and adults, visit the non-fiction section of your local library.

 

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Filed under activities, benefits of reading together, book activites, can do, children's books, cooking, creativity, family, family reading, following directions, following written directions, fruit, non-fiction, opportunities for conversation, reading numbers and symbols, science books, traditions