Everybody Cooks Rice

Learning To Cook Together


Recent events caused me to lose my faith for a bit. It wasn’t just about who won or didn’t win the Election, but the level of hate spewing throughout and continuing. I worry about the children affected, the intense divisions, yet hope our collective voices will shout what needs to be done, our collective actions will be wise and sure.

I pray we act through our conscience, regardless of our beliefs. Everyone is perfect in every way, even if we disagree on some things. Getting to Yes matters.

What we all must agree on is that it is our duty to protect our children. Our compassion comes before anything else right now until the ship rights itself and smoother seas prevail.

While we are in unchartered waters, as educators, parents, members of the larger world community, let us find ways to serve our country and ensure all children are nurtured, treated equally and receive a quality education.

That brings me to the extraordinarily beautiful, poignant in our time, classic Everybody Cooks Rice. You’ll get the connection.

I love this book. It’s perfect for right now, maybe more than ever.

Author Norah Dooley and illustrator Peter J Thornton (‘91) created a classic masterpiece of belonging, a simple neighborhood world where everyone lives close by, all get along and commonalities far outweigh any differences.

Rich characters and illustrations provide a gorgeous example of multiculturalism. We meet families from other countries we can identify on a map as a mini-lesson, including Barbados, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, China, India and Haiti. Launching off for great lessons and teachable moments.

I am sharing this beautiful book tomorrow at school. We are already learning book handling, concepts of print, sounds make letters, letters make words. My objectives are a little different.

First and foremost, I hope to encourage empathy and understanding we are all the same in our hearts and souls. Our littles already understand Inclusion and Diversity. Because we are so.

We spend much of our teaching time modeling sharing and caring for each other. Resolving differences. Putting bandaids on our boo boos, saying sorry and cleaning up our messes. We are learning character. I am learning humility and peace.

Feeding our hungry all day long, zippers, putting shoes on right feet. In between I ask high level questions, we cheer those who speak a first word and start stringing a sentence together, and ensure all are friends on the playground and no one gets picked on. Finding bugs and worms remains highest priority.

We are zooming on skills, too, helping the majority of kids who have unique learning styles and really need to be taught only one-to-one, excel.

All the littles are unique in every way, but they work in pairs, a big and little, all day long, including getting ready for meals, mats ready, washing hands and holding hands for safety.

I think about my own family. This year, we are more split up than usual, more apart than together, but clusters will be together in a couple of states.

But when we all do sit together, I look around at an extraordinary family made up of a variety of religions, beliefs and cultural backgrounds. We all get along and love each other madly. Just like our school. School and family are one. Seamless.

Everybody Cooks Rice is like my family. Maybe I just like to think so, I’m not sure. I do know that this sweet story is about family, first and foremost.

Here’s the sequence. As Anthony goes on his nightly exploration of what’s for dinner up and down the street, sister Carrie is supposed to track down her brother.

We first meet Mr. and Mrs. D. from Barbados. Grand tales, cooking with tumeric. Then looking for Anthony at Dong Tran’s house. He’s from Viet Nam. Fried rice, and peas and more.

Maybe Anthony’s at the Huas’. Well, how about Rajit’s? Yum, biryani cooking, there. Oh, now at Hua’s. Chopsicks, vegetables and rice. The Bleus are cooking Haitian style including you guessed it, red beans and rice included.

Back at home, Mom learned from her Italian grandmother how to make a special rice with green peas and is cooking up a tasty pot.

By this time, Carrie, having sampled the yummy rice dishes in her close knit neighborhood, is too full to eat . But Anythony, a great neighborhood rice sampler, is always up for more rice. Because everybody cooks rice!

My lesson plan tomorrow: (Circle Time, small groups)

Wear my Chinese slippers and apron. Refer to world map and one of their favorite books, about China, and it’s big

Make Predictions. Book Walk. Examples of our teamwork and belonging, as segue to story.

Discuss helping brothers and sisters, and our friends at school.

Dramatic play: Act out story and its sequence.

Fine Motor: Use chopsticks to pick up raisins.

Kinesthetic: Salt trays for letters we have studied.

Art and music: Painting one scene or character.

Since we read Tikki Tembo, maybe rhythm instruments.

Extension: Read recipes in the back of the book and see if I can cook it this week, at home, then eat it at school. Rice, for sure.

I believe in you. May you be blessed by teaching children of all ages and stages.

There are many things not in our control right now, but a positive attitude, protecting those who need to be protected and modeling a ferocity and intensity of “Can do” spirit ensures the strength of our families, communities and nation, the United States of America. God bless you all tonight.

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita

One comment

Thank you for this lovely, inspiring post, Rita! We all need to focus on commonalities and common purpose these days. There is so much wisdom to be found in children’s books and young adult literature. Thanks for reminding us of a classic.

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