Dave Maxwell
Donna Jones with students Shaylee Guerrero, 3, and Mille Hatch, 4, at the Little Books, Little Cooks program. It is sponsored locally through the UNR Extension office.

For the past few years, through a grant, the University of Nevada Reno Extension Office (UNR) has offered a summertime program in Lincoln County to preschoolers called “Little Books, Little Cooks.” The program was offered this year at the senior center in Alamo and at the Caliente elementary school.

Since 2016 the program has been conducted locally by Donna Jones of Caliente, a certified teacher’s assistant. She said, “Little Books, Little Cooks is a program that teaches preschool through kindergarten things like very basic math, science, measuring, all kinds of things that will help them adjust in the classroom when they start school. Getting used to sharing, waiting in line, all kinds of different social tools.

“We read a specially created little book each week, more of a children’s picture book that I read to the students,” she said. “Then the children can take the book home, as well as weekly handouts I give them, and mom and dad can read all that again and help them with the suggested activities given in the book plus a take-home recipe.” The students bring the book back the following week.

“These children are way smarter than you think they are,” Jones said.

With regards to the Little Cooks part of the program, Jones said, “We study about the food groups, identifying certain foods, and maybe talking about feeding practices, some about cooking skills, help them understand feelings of fullness and hunger, learn how to measure and spread using measuring cups and spoons. And here in Alamo today, we are going to use cookie cutters to make grilled cheese sandwiches.”

Jones noted, “They are learning a little math without even knowing it when they are measuring and learning a little science when they are putting the recipes together. And I allow them to adjust the recipe a little bit to what they like. If the child doesn’t like tomatoes, don’t use tomatoes. Before we start the cooking part, we teach them how to line up to wash their hands, and afterwards teach them about how to do cleanup.

The program in Alamo had only two students this year, but there are four in Caliente, including one boy. Jones said, “Maximum enrollment is 10 students. The parents can stay with the child during the class and they work together. It helps the child learn how to take instruction.”

“The hardest thing,” she said, “is getting the information out so parents know each year where the sevenweek-long program will be held on any given year. I am rotated each year. One year in Alamo-Caliente, the next in Pioche-Panaca. It’s a really good program and the kids really seem to enjoy it and have a good time.”