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Harrison County fifth-graders stirred, chopped, and measured their way to better math and reading skills during Recipe for Reading, a program developed by the Harrison County Extension Homemakers as a way to promote literacy to children.

The two-day event reached all 250 fifth-graders in Harrison County. The students were divided into groups with the task of preparing one of 11 dishes with the help of Cooperative Extension Homemakers and other volunteers. Through this experience, the students learned not only how to read recipes, but also about cooking measurements, kitchen safety, and practical living skills. After all the dishes were prepared, the students were able to sample each dish.

Hands-on experiences, like Recipe for Reading, help reinforce the importance of fractions and reading, says Pam Cunningham, a fifth-grade teacher at Northside Elementary. Since these types of activities can be difficult to do in a classroom with limited space, the fifth-graders were bussed to the Cynthiana Christian Church for this year’s event, which was convenient and provided more space.

This is the second year for the program, which was developed during an Extension Homemakers meeting, where members brainstormed how they could promote literacy to children in a way that would be an enjoyable learning experience. Bonnie Teater, Harrison County Extension Homemakers, says the program was a natural fit for Homemakers and a way they could share their talents with students.

The Harrison County Homemakers were able to get the project started through a grant from the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association. They have also received funding from the Kentucky Pork Producers and the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association. The Harrison County school system also contributed by purchasing cookbooks and recipe ingredients.

Homemakers chose recipes that were nutritious and they thought children would like, which can be a task in itself because many children can be picky eaters, Teater says. Through helping with the program, she has learned children are more open to try new foods when they take part in preparing them.

“Last year when we were piloting the program, one of the young boys made the Philly cheese steak sandwich, and he said, ‘I don’t like onions.’ But he couldn’t help himself; he had to try it,” she says. “So he tested that with the onions and went home that night and told his mom, ‘I’ve got to make those for you; you’re going to love them.’”

After the program, the students received a cookbook that contained each of the 11 recipes that were made.

“One of the interesting concepts we’re teaching is made-from-scratch,” says Harrison County Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent Cheryl Case. “Parents are not taking the time, or don’t have the time, to teach cooking skills to their children,” she says. “And so we have a generation of youth that are not learning to prepare meals.”

Case is confident other counties can easily replicate the program. The Harrison County Extension Homemakers will host a session at their state association meeting where they will share the project with others.

“We’ve worked out most of the problems and have been able to come up with recipes that the children enjoy making that fit into the food guide pyramid plan for the way they should be eating,” Case says.

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