September 8th is International Literacy Day (hooray!), and although we’ve been busy re-arranging our house (believe it) and trying to get back into the swing of school (trying–), we haven’t forgotten to sneak in a little learning now and again.
And we never pass up the opportunity to throw in a celebration around here–no way.
International Literacy Day is really a day when everyone around the world stops for a minute or two and thinks about how they can “renew their efforts to promote literacy and demonstrate their commitment to providing education for all” (IRA website).
How can this not be a day for celebrating?
Coincidentally, at our library last week, we found a new favorite author and new favorite book and a new favorite dish–all in one spot. And there’s no better day to share it than today, at a time when literacy is celebrated around the world in so many different ways.
One of the many ways the IRA suggests celebrating International Literacy Day is by having children read a book about children in other countries and comparing that country’s stories, culture, or songs to that of their own. And that’s how we celebrated ILD this year. . .
- Cora Cooks Pancit: In Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore’s book, Cora, the youngest in her Filipino family, never gets a chance to do the ‘grown-up jobs’ in the kitchen like her brother and sisters. One afternoon when the ‘big kids’ are out, Cora and her mom make pancit by themselves. Finally Cora takes on the jobs she’s dreamed of doing by herself, and she shows her family that she’s not so little after all.
This book jumped out at us because our sweet Cora has not had the luck that Owen and Maddy have had with finding her name on cups, stickers, or books. So when I saw this book on the shelf last week, I screamed. Cora! Oh my gosh, Cora! This book is for you!
She literally jumped up in the air and yelled Woo-hoo! That’s my name! That says ‘Cora’–C-O-R-A. It’s about me!
I read the title–initially mispronouncing ‘pancit’ mind you–and we looked at each other a little perplexed. Although the girl on the cover didn’t even resemble my blue-eyed, blonde-haired Cora a little bit, my little one was hooked even though we both weren’t sure what ‘pancit’ was.
So we took the book home, read it twice before Maddy got home from school and then twice after that. Cora carried it around with her for most of the day, and she woke up the next day reminding me that we were going to make pancit that day and that I promised and so we had to.
I copied ‘Lolo’s Pancit Recipe’ from the back of the book, and we were on our way. We had a blast trying to find ingredients that were new to us like rice stick pancit noodles, bamboo shoots, and baby corn. We talked about what we knew about noodles, bamboo, and corn and wondered what these new kinds would taste like.
We spent the morning and early afternoon cooking the pancit–we set a timer for the soaking noodles and dried shitake mushrooms, and we put one of each ingredient on a plate so that Maddy could try each one when she got home.Our ingredients–pancit is on its way.
I chopped and Owen and Cora added ingredients after they tried teeny bites of each one. They felt their eyes water when I cut the onion–just like Cora and her mom do in the book. My Cora was in charge of testing the noodles, not by smelling them like Cora in the book does but by pinching them in her fingers as Cora’s mother gently explains. Owen was in charge of breaking up my clumsily chopped carrots and celery and cabbage. We were making real-life connections with the story; it was totally cool.
It was awesome. We all loved the pancit–and although Maddy, Owen, and Cora weren’t too fond of the mushrooms, they ate mostly everything else. They especially loved the noodles and sauce.
The recipe yielded so much that we had it for dinner that night, Maddy took some for lunch at school the next day, and we still had some to take to the pool for lunch over the weekend. Usually the kids get tired of left-overs, but they all wanted the pancit each day.
We’ll definitely make this dish again (Maddy’s been pretty insistent, since she missed out). But most importantly, because of a meaningful connection with a character and a family who loves to cook like we do, our family stepped out of our comfort zone a bit, tried something new, and stepped into what life might be like for a Filipino family for one part of an afternoon.
Gilmore’s simple, inviting, and colorful story and descriptions coupled with Kristi Valient’s warm illustrations make this book completely engaging for all readers–no matter the age. And the idea of the youngest in the family wanting so much to do what her older siblings do–and then trying it and being successful!–is something that makes us all smile.
So hopefully in celebrating International Literacy Day, we can all do a little something–whether it’s something as simple as talking with your kiddos about different languages and their alphabets or reading about different countries, cultures, or tales–every little thing we do helps generate an awareness of others and the world around us. Every book we read with our children helps grow more literate individuals. And that’s what we want–a more literate world.
Want more about Cora Cooks Pancit? I did.
- For more information about this super, new-for-us author (yikes–should this be a New For Us Friday post? Maybe? Gulp.), please check out Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore’s blog, health-full, which she writes with her husband and where she shares recipes that I cannot wait to try.
- A new-for-me blog, Into The Wardrobe, by Tarie of the Philippines. I found her via her Interview with Dorinal K. Lazo Gilmore, but I will read more of her smart author interviews and reviews of young adult literature. Thank you, Tarie!
- Shen’s Books is the publisher of Cora Cooks Pancit, and the site has pictures of the author and illustrator meeting for the first time (cool!) and tons of information on other multicultural texts published by Shen’s Books. Plus, it’s a beautiful site.
One thing that really struck me with Cora Cooks Pancit is the power that one book holds. One book is all it takes to inspire, energize, and engage a person.