Author Spotlight Series · illustrators · picture book

Teachable Concepts for Young Kids Through Cooking

Author Spotlight
Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Melissa Iwai’s newest book, Pizza Day.

As a child, I was always drawn to conceptual stories that taught things about the real world. I often spent hours poring over Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever, The Little Family books by Lois Lenski, David MacCauley’s The Way Things Work, Piero Ventura’s Cities books, to name a few. I was fascinated by how things worked and how people did things in the world.

SoupDay.jktWhen I wrote Soup Day, I realized it was my way of teaching kids something about the real world: the process of making soup. It is also an expression of my love of cooking with my then four-year-old son, Jamie. When we shopped for ingredients, prepped them at home, and cooked them together, I realized there were so many teachable aspects to explore, such as counting, observing, and following a series of steps. There are also the hand-eye coordination based skills involved, such as washing, cutting, stirring, pouring, and the cognitive ones, such as counting, observing shapes and colors.  I wanted to write a story that captured all of these aspects but in a fun way. And kids are more likely to eat what they are involved in Soup-Day-2-Melissa-Iwai-2018making, even if they are picky eaters, like my son was.


Cooking involves the five senses, so I wanted to include that in the story as well. For example, sight (“…it’s important to choose the freshest ones with the brightest colors…”), touch (“I get to cut the mushrooms and zucchini because they are soft. Mommy helps my hand”), hearing (“Then we fill the big pot with broth.  “Ssssss!” It makes a loud sound.”), smell (“Before long, our home smells like yummy soup…”), and taste, of course (“Mmmm!”)!

Pizza Day is a companion book, and it features similar themes, but the story takes place in summer in the suburbs with a dad and son making the pizza for lunch with mom.


Because a book about cooking and food seemed to provide so many opportunities for teaching, I reached out to Marcie Colleen, an experienced curriculum guide writer (and fantastic children’s book author in her own right), to create a teaching guide for Pizza Day. This guide is a free downloadable and features all kinds of activities based on the subjects of English Language Arts, Math, Science, to Social Studies. It is available here

Pizza Day Melissa Iwai 2018By far the most gratifying thing about being an author and illustrator is meeting the children and families who have read your books and share their experiences with you. I love hearing stories of children making the soup and pizza (recipes are in the back of books) and eating and trying new vegetables in the process!  I’m also happy to report that my son, who is now thirteen, still loves to cook and he occasionally makes meals for the whole family on his own!

For more about Pizza Day:

Melissa Iwai has illustrated over twenty books and is the author of Soup Day and Pizza Day (Henry Holt 2017), which is a 2018 Kansas NEA Reading Circle Master List book. More about her books, and downloadable craft and recipe ideas can be found on her website. Her cooking blog, The Hungry Artist, chronicles her cooking adventures with her young son and features many recipes that can be made with kids. You can also find Melissa on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.



  • This giveaway is for a copy of Pizza Day. Many thanks to Macmillan for donating this prize. For a chance to win this copy of the book, please leave a comment about this post by Sunday, June 3rd, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Wednesday, June 6th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
    • U.S. mailing addresses only for the book.
  • If you are the winner of this book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – MELISSA IWAI. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

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Thank you to everyone who left a comment on this blog post.
I used a random number generator and Johanna’s commenter number came up so s/he won this giveaway.

19 thoughts on “Teachable Concepts for Young Kids Through Cooking

  1. I love cooking with our grandchildren ( and loved to do so as well with our three children when they were young). I agree that cooking brings in many teachable concepts with a memorable outcome. I read Soup Day, and it’s so thorough. I will have to purchase Pizza Day, even if i’m not lucky to win it.


  2. I love that the author really thought about all of the various thinking skills that she thought about when writing this book – I truly hadn’t thought about “cooking” in that way. I can’t wait to see this book! I would love to share this with, not just my students, but my own son! Thank you for sharing!


  3. I just adore the idea of adding books that feature recipes to my classroom library. This year I’ve had so many students writing about cooking and I am in need of a food book basket to encourage these future chefs! Thanks for your inspiration Melissa and TWT!


  4. Love this! My grandmother taught me many lessons while baking, cooking, and sewing. I, in turn, taught my children through cooking and baking (I’ve only recently taken up sewing again as they are grown and I have more time – LOL). This is such a great idea and I wish more parents and grandparents would supplement learning through experiences like these at home.


  5. I am going to recommend these books for a great summer reading/math connection. I still love cooking with my daughter and now she is a mom.


  6. What a wonderful post about the joy of cooking together. I didn’t know that anyone else knew about Lois Lenski books. I loved them as a child. Pilot Small and Farmer Small.


  7. More than several years back, I cooked with my Kindergarten class almost weekly. One of the books I loved to share was Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco. After reading the book we would make the chocolate cake recipe in the back. Students were always skeptical about putting tomatoes, the secret ingredient, in the cake. But it was always a hit! I’m a huge advocate for teaching students using cooking.


  8. Wonderful post. Today when so many of our kids (and their families) don’t know where their food comes from or even what constitutes as real food these books are a joy to read. At our school we are always looking for books to connect with our gardening and cooking experiences. And these look to be perfect literacy connections. Thank you!


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