How to Use Eric Carle Books to Teach Reading

Have you ever wondered what makes teaching with Eric Carle books so captivating for children and adults? 

How Eric Carle Books Teach Children to Read

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There is no doubt that books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? are beloved by millions of readers around the world. While you may think these books are entertaining and simply written to capture a child’s attention, there is much more going on under the surface. This is why we recommend teaching with Eric Carle books and other predictable pattern books like these as anchor texts for your reading program. Let’s dive into what makes these books a powerful tool in your toolkit.

Eric Carle Books Are Predictable Pattern Books

Predictable pattern books help children predict. This is a key comprehension skill. As readers make sense of the text and master the process of reading for comprehension and meaning, one thing we all do is predict.

“I bet he’s the thief.” we say when reading our murder mysteries.

“I think she’s going to find out she has a twin sister!” we suspect as we read a thick, family drama.

Children need to learn the skill of predicting as well. Predictable pattern books help them do this from an early age. The predictability of following the caterpillar through the days of the week in Eric Carle’s beloved, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, helps children learn that stories follow a sequence and they can use clues to determine or predict what may happen next in the story. This not only engages the child as she reads, but it also helps her create meaning from the text.

Teaching with Eric Carle Books Helps Early Readers Feel Like Real Readers

Predictable pattern text helps early readers feel like real readers. In many cases they can guess and use the repeated patterns to “read” or memorize the text. We want young children to see themselves as readers right out of the gate. You are helping to build amazing confidence in your child as a reader when she can pick up a book like Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? and read it aloud to herself.

Eric Carle Books Contain High-Interest Story Lines

Unlike contrived and boring phonics readers, using real books like this engages your child in every lesson. They do not see fun books as something they get to do after reading class is over. They understand that reading is always engaging and interesting and that there are real books they can access and read on their own.

Pictures Match the Text to Support Fluency and Comprehension

Your child does not need to have covered all the phonics sounds needed to read a multi-syllabic word like caterpillar to read through the very hungry caterpillar’s adventures. The word is repeated and matched with the text on every page so they can recognize it and read it with fluency.

This is why pictures with high correlation to the text are important for beginning readers. It’s okay to use the pictures, in fact, that is what they are there for. But why restrict your child from exposure to rich vocabulary words like hippo and polar bear and butterfly and have them only read dry phonics readers with cat, dog, and hat as the only nouns present? Learning new vocabulary is critical to your child’s growth as a reader and we can enrich this process by using authentic children’s literature like Eric Carle books throughout the day.

Eric Carle Books Use Plenty of High-Frequency Words

These are words that children will encounter and need to be able to read with fluency such as: days of the week, color words, number words, animals and senses (hear, see, taste, eat, etc.)

Did You Know?

  • The first 100 words from the Fry Instant Word List (1980) represent 50 percent of all the words children encounter in elementary school reading.
  • The complete list of 300 words contains approximately two-thirds of all words students encounter in their reading.

Why not use children’s books that feature these words frequently in order to provide ample practice? I know some will challenge what I am saying and tell you that words should be restricted in print until children have all the phonics skills mastered. What we say to that is: Did you restrict your child’s speaking until she had mastered all the sounds? Surely you did not! In fact, you enjoyed listening to her talk and say things like “sgetti” for spaghetti and “posed to be” for supposed to be. Let’s be as generous and fun loving with learning to read!

Eric Carle Books Contain Sight Words

There are plenty of sight words to be found in the repeated pattern books, and other high-interest, quality children’s literature. Exposure to words like: what, do, you, see, hear, from, to, under, over, etc. You can see just from the title of Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? how many sight words you are working with! Use this opportunity to make flashcards and talk about these words.

How to Use Eric Carle Books to Teach Phonics

What sounds can you pull out just from the title of Brown Bear to work with? You can use judgment here, but let me point out a few. The ‘ear’ sound may not be what your child is ready for but ‘ow’ is an easy and common vowel sound that you can practice with. Practice making more words with ‘ow’ showing your child that ‘ow’ can be at the end of words like ‘cow’ and ‘how’ or in the middle like ‘shower’ and ‘clown’.


You could introduce the ‘ear’ sound in bear and explain that sometimes ‘ear’ says the sound like in ‘ear’ and sometimes it makes a long ‘a’ sound like ‘bear’ and ‘pear’.

We always recommend you build on what your child already knows and use the natural occurrences of words in books to find teachable moments. Mastery will not come from worksheets and drill but from practice reading these words in context and seeing them over and over. We talk much more about teachable moments in Chapter 6 of Teach a Child to Read with Children’s Books

Using Eric Carle Books to Teach Reading Makes Reading Fun!

Books like Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear are entertaining, tell stories, and help children learn about the world around them. That is ultimately what we are always aiming for: teaching our children that reading is fun and creating a sense of wonder in them that will propel them through the learning to read process so they can become independent, lifelong readers!

If this is your goal, predictable pattern books are your best friend. Find what you need at your local library and don’t worry about repeating through them to pull out new skills and phonics elements.

If you are the person who needs to know both the WHY and the HOW, then our book is the book that will support you as you teach your child to read. We not only give you an abundance of how to and resources you can use immediately, but we also explain the why. The why is what’s going to sustain you when you see other parents buying packaged reading programs and you are tempted to do so. Our readers time and again come back and tell us how this book is ALL THEY NEEDED!

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Everything you need to start making good decisions about your child’s reading program is supported in detail in the book and we have a FREE Facebook group that gives you support and how-to as you go. Click HERE to join today!

Predictable pattern books like Eric Carle books are the ticket to beginning reader success! Start today!

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