In the folktale Stone Soup, a traveler is turned away from an inhospitable community until he claims he can make soup from a stone. As he boils a stone in a pot of water, people are drawn out of their homes by their curiosity. They bring ingredients—spices, vegetables, and meat—they previously said they could not spare, and contribute to the traveler's pot. The result is a delicious soup the entire community enjoys together. The stone may not have been magical, but preparing and enjoying food together is its own kind of magic.
In April, Los Angeles Public Library celebrates children and books with online programs throughout the month, culminating with a celebration on April 30, El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day). Families are invited to watch musical performances, dancers, and storytellers, and to take part in book discussions, exploring the diverse cultural heritage of the people of Los Angeles. Find out more about these programs on the Día page.
Parents and caregivers can celebrate Día at home by reading books with their children, talking with them about their own cultural heritage, singing songs from their childhood, having fun drawing or writing stories together, and preparing food together! Food is a gateway for learning about other cultures, and our own. Preparing food and eating together is a bonding experience, an opportunity for conversation. Plus, it's a fun way for children to develop motor skills while stirring, practicing math while measuring, and learning about nutrition. Allowing children some decision-making in meals can build their confidence and planning skills. Cooking can even improve literacy—recipes and food packaging are full of new vocabulary words and instructions to interpret.
In the spirit of Día, you can make your own magic and explore food from around the world, and the library can help. The A to Z World Food database has recipes and food-related customs from 174 countries. The Easy Menu Ethnic Cookbook series can be found on hoopla, and features cookbooks for children with food from around the world, including regions of Africa and Latin America, Asian and European countries, Vegetarian Cooking Around the World, and my favorite, Desserts Around the World.
Outside of the kitchen, there are plenty of books to share with young children about family food traditions, the people who cook for us, and the joyous experience of sharing a meal. Work up an appetite with one of the following stories.
Happy reading, happy eating, and happy Día!