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6 Beautiful Ways to Celebrate the Life of Eric Carle

His unmistakable imagery helped generations of early readers and artists – here’s how to pay it forward.

Sarah Burns · 4 months ago

  • art

Any kid that grew up after 1969 will immediately recognize the unmistakably simple shapes, bright swirling colors, and charmingly illustrated tales of brown bears, tiny seeds, and – of course – an excessively ravenous caterpillar. Eric Carle’s whimsical, colorful world and simple stories helped kids practice counting, recognize colors, and increase their vocabulary. In a very literal sense, he helped raise generations of readers.

Here’s what you can do to celebrate Eric Carle’s life today:

1. Read!

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Penguin

Whether you’re in it for the beautiful illustrations, the vocabulary building, or the simple, satisfying stories, read one of Eric Carle’s books. He’s commonly billed as a children’s author, but Carle’s body of work is truly prolific – and beautiful art can be appreciated at any age. Check out this complete list of Eric Carle’s books.

2. Teach!

Artists are typically known for keeping trade secrets. But Eric Carle loved teaching and inspiring others. He held workshops for kids for painting and color theory and even provided an online tutorial for his unique tissue painting method. 

Take a page from one of Carle’s books (not literally!), and think about what you love to do. In Carle’s case, it was art, color, and the freedom to learn and grow. What speaks to you? What do you love? If nothing comes to you right away, that’s okay – figuring out what you want to put out into the world to help make it a better place is just a part of the process.

3. Expand your vocabulary!

Learning to read can be a complicated process: new symbols to know, rules to remember, and words you might never have even heard before! Carle’s books were designed to help reinforce all three through simple, repetitive cadences and a deliberate mix of words children are likely familiar with and others they may not have seen before.

As you get older, it gets harder to actively increase your vocabulary because, after a certain age, you learn most of the words you need to know to get by. That doesn't mean we should stop learning! Vocabulary is critical in giving our brains a workout, fighting against memory loss and cognitive deterioration as we get older. So pick up a dictionary or thesaurus – or maybe a word a day calendar – and learn some new words! Heck, why not learn a new language entirely!

4. Have a literary feast!

When you’re re-reading a story about your favorite caterpillar, take notes! What fruits did that eat? Cut them up and make a fruit salad! Or what about “a pickle, swiss cheese, and salami” sandwich? There are so many foods to choose from in this one book alone, and you can come up with all sorts of inventive food combinations!

5. Write your own story!

If Eric Carle’s tales have taught us anything, it’s that a story doesn’t need to have many complicated words, plot twists, or tons of characters to be worthwhile. It’s also the perfect way to practice new vocabulary words!

6. Make some art!

Scribbles, doodles, paint splatters – it all counts, and it doesn’t have to be complicated! Start off easy with some abstract watercolor, cut up some paper shapes, see what they become, or head to Eric Carle’s website to learn the technique he used to create his illustrations!

Bugs were a repeating theme in Carle’s work, likely because their exciting shapes and colors were so fun to play with! Check out this roundup of bug crafts, and make some friends in time for storytime.