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June 05, 2013

By Pamela Thomas

Cookbooks for Kids in the Age of the App

Pam Thomas is an editor in Sesame Workshop’s Book Publishing department and the author of several cookbooks.

Cooking with kids is not only an excellent way to find delectable  “quality time” with the family, it’s a perfect tactic for sneaking in teachable moments, all while  mixing up a batch of good-for-you muffins!  How about math: How many cookies make a dozen?  Or science: Why does butter melt when it’s put over heat? How does a cake rise when it’s put in an oven?  Literacy: What foods begin with the letter “C”?  And even a bit of etiquette: Let’s set a pretty table for supper! Or, let’s take a plate of cookies to the nice lady who lives next door!

And then, of course, there’s the whole issue of good health as it relates to food. Research has shown that Sesame Street’s furry, friendly, familiar characters can have a powerful influence over young children, guiding them to develop positive eating habits and to delight in exercise—strong ingredients for lifelong health. Sesame Street’s ongoing initiative, “Healthy Habits for Life,” proves that young children are more interested in healthy foods and good eating practices when these subjects are reinforced in fun, creative, colorful, and active ways.  That’s what Sesame Street cookbooks have strived to achieve.

Over the years, Sesame Workshop’s Publishing Group has worked with several partners, licensing the use of Sesame Street characters and curricula, to create a number of cookbooks for children, most of which feature the creativity, color, and activities that make cooking and healthy eating fun for kids. If you have a young child in your life, you’ll definitely want to check out our tasty offerings!

Our most recent top-performing cookbooks have all been published by the cookbook division of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (now part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).  C is for Cooking, by Susan McQuillan, and its Spanish language edition, C es de Concinar de Nuestra Comunidad both offer a broad array of recipes, ranging from breakfast foods to healthy side dishes. Each recipe includes preparation steps designed just for kids, such as sprinkling on spices, measuring and stirring ingredients, and, of course, taste testing! Its sequel, B is for Baking, also by McQuillan, features 50 yummy dishes to bake together. Like its predecessor, B is for Baking includes fun food facts, safety tips, and a favorite Sesame Street friend on every page to keep young bakers engaged in the kitchen. These titles have collectively sold more than 300,000 copies, a remarkable feat for any cookbook, especially one created especially for children.

In the May 1 issue of The New York Times, Anthony M. Marx, President of the New York Public Library, wrote, “E-book readership is rising much faster than readership of print books; digital books could soon be the most popular book format.” Although the publication rate of e-cookbooks may be slightly less spectacular than the e-publication of other book genres, cookbooks are proliferating on every digital platform.

Despite the robust activity to produce adult cookbooks in digital formats, at the moment few children’s cookbooks are available as e-books or apps.  Nevertheless, once again, Sesame Street emerges as an early leader with the publication of both e-books and apps.  In partnership with Random House, we’ve created two e-books: Elmo’s Breakfast Bingo by Abigail Tabby with illustrations by Louis Womble and Grover’s Guide to Good Eating by Naomi Kleinberg with illustrations by Tom Leigh and Josie Yee, both of which focus directly on the pleasures of cooking and the importance of eating right.

And just this past April, Sesame Workshop and Publications International launched a digital version of Silly Snacks, a 20-recipe bundle of healthy recipes, designed to intrigue and delight younger kids!  This app is available exclusively for download as part of the award-winning iCookbook iOS app. It features recipes for healthy snacking with encouragement from Elmo, Big Bird, Grover and other Sesame Street characters—including, of course, the irrepressible Cookie Monster. Each recipe includes parent tips, facts, and cooking activities designed just for kids.

Much is happening in the worlds of cookbooks for kids—and digital publishing—especially here at Sesame Workshop. Cooking is a wonderful way to bond with your children while teaching them important skills as well. So whether your pre-schooler  prefers “Oscar’s Messy Green Stuff in a Potato Crust” or “Rosita’s Honey Pear Crisp”, use cooking time as learning time. You’ll have fun and will end up sharing special memories as well as food that’s sure to be delicious.

To check out Sesame Street’s print cookbooks, click here. To check out our e-books, click here.

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