SOUTH HAVEN | Issac Cisneros slurped up his last spoonful of chicken soup with rice Tuesday.
Despite his hesitation -- "I don't like rice," he told Saylor Elementary School teacher Linda Rodenbarger before his first spoonful -- he asked for a second helping.
"I like it because we get to eat, we get to take tests and we get to color," said Issac of Rodenbarger's after school program "Books and Cooks."
The book the students read Tuesday was, of course, "Chicken Soup with Rice."
The program, in its third year, combines two of Rodenbarger's passions, eating and reading. Students, with parental permission, volunteer to participate in the program.
For seven weeks after school, the second graders stay for an hour. They read a book and fix a snack related to their reading. Next week they'll make English muffin pizzas to go with "Curious George and the Pizza Party." They also partake in related activities and, if they choose, take a test on the book to build their accelerated reading points.
"The best thing is you get to eat a healthy snack and you get to read and take tests," said Devonna Christian.
"I wanted to promote an interest in books and a connection to eating," said Rodenbarger, adding its the teacher's trick of getting kids to learn while they're having fun.
She said she also likes the idea of introducing healthy snacks to the youngsters. They'll explore the world of fruits and vegetables in week seven when they read "Eating the Alphabet."
But, she added, its not only reading. They've graphed colors of Fruit Loops cereal, wrote a little of what they've learned, gotten introduced to new words and even explored a bit of geography through the lessons.