Picture Books and Food: How to Jump Start Reading Comprehension at Home

What interesting and vital creatures the honey bees are – yet most of us know little about them.

P-2, Lexile 520

A Taco Tuesday Picture Book?

Parents can jump start reading comprehension at home with a mix of food and high-quality read-aloud picture books – and, it’s easier than you think! When picture books are read out loud and discussed in a certain way, they become “lessons in disguise” that entice kids into the wonderful world of thinking smart about books. Here are some reading lessons they promote:

  1. Make Predictions
  2. Make Inferences
  3. Ask Questions
  4. Motivate and Excite Kids to Learn More
  5. Build Word Knowledge

Let’s connect reading to that topic we all love – food! Does your family have Taco Tuesday or Pizza Friday? Much of our traditions and family time center around food so I think it will be fun to highlight some picture books about food.  Some are cute stories where food is referenced in the titles. This kind of “inference” is fun to talk about and actually gets kids thinking (and laughing) about the titles and content of the stories. Don’t forget, that there are two reasons to read:  for information and for enjoyment. Stories for kids about food serve up both purposes. And, since just about every classroom has a sign somewhere that says, “Reading is Thinking,” parents can get kids thinking at home in fun ways that don’t even seem like they are learning.

Talk about the Titles and Pictures

Although there are hundreds of good reading programs for kids, parents are the first teachers. There is much to do easily and quickly at home. The first step in successful reading comprehension is to think. For example, why on earth did the author choose dragons and not alligators for the featured book? Why was the story called, Enemy Pie (P-7, Lexile 550) and not Enemy Cookie? Kids will also have fun writing their own stories about foods they choose. Most of us are familiar with the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie ()-3, Lexile 410) a series of adorable stories for kids – but, do we know why the author chose the foods in these stories? Fun to think about.  How would the stories be different if the authors used different foods?  The Good Egg (P-3, Lexile 510) leads to all kinds of discussions and lessons about idioms. There is a Read-Aloud guide in the top menu for Dragons Love Tacos.

Most of the kids books I buy come from amazon.com.  I like that online bookstore because it gives so much quick information about each book, including the cover picture, description, ratings, and reading levels (Lexile levels).

Enjoy the Many Food-Related Titles of Picture Books

I went on an amazon.com search for kids books with titles that reference food. They will be fun to read and talk about with your children. The secret to helping at home is to get the conversation going to arouse curiosity and excitement in your child. Do some further research about the origin of the your favorite foods or you can also do an author study about particular books that you like.  Children are home right now with plenty of time.  So, why not get them excited about research and literary analysis about food-related stories?  Here are a few stories for kids that you and your children might like.  Remember, always read a book first before reading it to your children to avoid surprises.  Read it together and talk about it as you go (here’s more thinking). Then do some great after-reading activities to keep the thinking alive and dig deeper, like:

  • Research and write a report
  • Draw pictures of the story in Sequential Order
  • Write a new ending to the story
  • Write and perform a play about food
  • Do some cooking
  • Plan and prepare for a family party, including handmade invitations.

These are a few kids books that I found that look interesting:

  • Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast (K-2, Lexile 760)
  • Escargot (P-1, Lexile 520)
  • Pizza Day (P-1, no Lexile available)
  • Stone Soup (P-3, Lexile 560)
L=3 Lexile 480

Picture Books Explore the World

The Water Princess is about the water shortage in Africa and the great lengths people there go to in order to get daily water.

Do a search about where water comes from where you live.  You might be able to find a Virtual Tour of a water treatment plant. You are thinking about the topic now in the broader, global sense.


Learn about Honey Bees

What interesting and vital creatures the honey bees are – yet most of us know little about them.  Here are some picture books that might be well received by your family.

  • The Honeybee Man (P-3, Lexile 660)
  • The Honey Makers (K-3, Lexile 770)
  • The King of Bees (P-2, Lexile 600).

I’ll be reading The King of Bees on my You Tube Channel, Creating Smart Readers coming up soon (link in top menu). I bought this fabulous children’s book after attending a lecture by the author, Lester Laminack, at a Literacy Conference in New York City. He is responsible for my love of and extensive use of high-quality picture books. My eyes were opened to a new of using wonderful picture books – reading lessons for teachers when using them as mentor texts and “lessons-in-disguise” for parents when using as read-alouds.

Yes, there are adorable children’s books for toddlers and very young kids, but be on the lookout for the overlooked treasures hidden in the pages of high- quality picture books that are loaded with information, illustrations, hidden meaning, life lessons, and colorful vocabulary. It is so much easier to get your kids interested in reading – and, thinking about the stories – when you practice with these beautiful and captivating books.

Check out some short You Tube videos by National Geographic showing kids tending to bees. Always read or view a book or video first.

Kids Books for Young Chefs and Bakers

Let’s end up with some cookbooks for kids.  Most kids enjoy baking and cooking, so I’m including a few children’s books on the subject.  When cooking or baking, kids need to learn to follow directions and the sequence needed to successfully complete a recipe. You can also find great instructional videos and other books online or in the library. Have fun!

  • Kid Chef Junior (P-2 no Lexile available)
  • The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs ((Gr 4-8, Lexile 1040)
  • The Vegetarian Cookbook (Gr 4-7, no Lexile available)
  • The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook (Gr 3-7, no Lexile available)

Here is a link to the Food Network site for cooking with kids. https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/packages/recipes-for-kids/cooking-with-kids

A Word about Lexiles

Please check the Lexile level (reading level) of the children’s books you want your kids to read on their own.  As you can see from the chart on the upper right, Lexile levels do not always jive with the grades that are targeted for these books. Please know your child’s reading level.  If a book is too hard, your children will not read it or they will “fake read” it.  Read more challenging books to and with your children so they don’t miss out on grade-leveled stories for kids that appeal to them and their friends.  Children can understand stories that are 2 years above their reading level. For independent practice, kids should always read at their own level. Start there and then slowly move up once their confidence and skills improve.

Finally, whether your family hosts Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday or anything in between, I hope you will enjoy mixing these fabulous picture books with the foods you love. I am always happy to hear from you with concerns or questions about Reading.

Please subscribe to this Blog (and to my You Tube channel) and you will receive a notice when a new Blog post or read-aloud story is available.  I never ever use your information for anything else.

“Happy Reading!” (and Happy Eating)!

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Author: Susan

Retired NYS certified Reading Specialist, Picture Book Aficionado, Crocheter, Author, Blogger, and Westie Dog lover!

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