All About Reading is a great phonics program, and now author Marie Rippel has produced a simple pre-reading resource for younger children called ABC Snacks: Eating Your Way through the Alphabet.
ABC Snacks is available only online, and it's free! Go to author Marie Rippel's blog site and select any letter of the alphabet. You might do one or two letters of the alphabet per week.
Each "lesson" begins with a creative snack that's generally as much of an arts-and-crafts lesson as it is food preparation or reading. For example, for the letter "c,"children help construct a "creeping caterpillar sandwich" made out of a tortilla, peanut butter, jelly, a cherry tomato, and bell pepper slices. Children use a black food marker to draw eyes on the caterpillar's tomato head or insert pieces of black olives or mini chocolate chips as eyes. Each snack includes a list of possible variations too help accommodate special dietary restrictions or personal preferences. The snack preparation is simple enough for children to participate, and the results are delightful. Full-color illustrations show both preparation and the finished product.
Brief instructions follow the snack directions. For this lesson, while preparing the snack, children can try forming the pepper slices into the letter "c." You can help children practice the hard-c sound by saying, "/k/–/k/–creeping caterpillar" with them. After enjoying the snack, you would then read a caterpillar book together; The Very Hungry Caterpillar is recommended for this lesson, but you can use any book with a caterpillar character.
For parents who want to work more explicitly on pre-reading skills, there's a link to Rippel's two-page presentation of teaching tips, "ABC Snacks: Tips for Working on Pre-Reading Skills."
Website pages are set for easy printing. By February 2014, the entire collection should be available for download as a single file. You can compile a printout of the entire series, essentially a cookbook for creative snacks. There's also a free PDF to create a cover for the book. In addition, new snacks are scheduled to be added each month. For example, a valentine-shaped pizza snack is being added to the series for Valentine's Day. There will eventually be multiple snacks for each letter of the alphabet.
ABC Snacks is a delightful, age-appropriate way to introduce pre-reading skills to preschoolers, but it's also fun to use if you do nothing but create the snacks. And since it's free, there's no reason not to try it out.