Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

When kids begin learning to read, they quickly start coming across digraphs—sets of two letters that combine to make a brand new sound. And the most common of these is TH. These spelling patterns can be very confusing for kids. They’ve learned that the letters make certain sounds, but now two letters are combining to make a totally different sound! With a little practice, though, they’ll get it quickly.

That’s why we’ve created this easy recipe for kids that helps them practice reading the TH spelling pattern as they prepare a simple, healthy meal with you. Just read the recipe, make the Three Bean Salad dish together, and your child will be on the way to reading TH with ease! 

To begin, print out the recipe from the Read With Me Recipe Book (See below.) Then, before you start cooking, demonstrate the TH sounds in the and three for your child. Note that the sounds are slightly different, but don’t worry—kids quickly make the connection between TH in the and the softer TH sound in three.

Next, explain that these sounds are made by the letters T and H next to each other. I suggest handing them a pencil and encouraging them to circle all the TH digraphs they can find in the recipe. (Hint: Keep in mind that TH can be found at the beginning or end of a word.)

Important: The tops of cans are sharp! Help kids with opening the cans of beans.

Our Read with Me Recipe series features printable recipes that are easy for kids to make and read. Simple words and short sentences in an easy font set your little one up for reading success. Just print the recipe and read it together as you cook, using the tips below to maximize the learning. The idea is to make it easy for you to mix reading and writing into everyday life with your kids. This kind of “everyday literacy” is key to raising thriving readers.

What dishes do your kids love? Submit your favorite recipe or request a recipe for an upcoming feature through the Contact Maya Form!

Tips for teaching reading with this recipe:

  • Introduce your child to how recipes work. If you’re not sure they know them already, be sure to explain vocabulary like “ingredients” and other cooking terms. One of the biggest challenges for beginning readers is just knowing and understanding the vocabulary they’ll encounter in books.
  • Watch out for specific words in the recipe they may not be familiar with, and give a simple definition.
  • Keep an eye out for tricky-to-read words, such as “vinegar” and “oil.” Point out letter combinations that might be new or less familiar to your child.
  • For little ones who aren’t reading much yet, just pointing out what you’re reading and emphasizing a few key words or letters is enough. If you make the recipe again, you can help them find the words you pointed out before.
  • Use this as an opportunity to show them punctuation, as well as words and letters. Point to the commas, periods, or other punctuation marks, and explain what they mean. 
  • If they can’t read the recipe on their own, give them chances for success by asking them about what they do know, gently underscoring key knowledge. E.g., ask, Can you find the letters TH? or How many words do you see with TH?
  • For kids who are reading already, encourage them to read the recipe themselves. If they have trouble, just calmly help them with any words they can’t quite get. E.g., if they have trouble with the word “dressing,” try covering “ing” and helping them read just the first part of the word before you uncover the rest.
  • Bring your patience. Give your child space to read a word (or identify a letter) before you jump in, but be prepared to help if they’re showing signs of frustration.

Easy Recipe for Kids: Three Bean Salad

  • 2 cans of green beans
  • 1 can of red beans
  • 1 can of navy beans
  • Parsley
  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar
  • Apple cider vinegar

Step 1:

Open the cans and pour out all the water.

Step 2:

Mix the three kinds of beans in a bowl.

Step 3:

Chop the parsley and add it to the beans.

Step 4:

Mix some oil, sugar, salt, pepper, and vinegar in a small bowl. This is the dressing.

Step 5:

Pour the dressing over the beans and mix.

Step 6:

Chill the three bean salad for 2 hours.

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