How Eric Carle helped me keep a promise

Yesterday when I learned of Eric Carle’s death at 91, I had just left a local preschool that serves underprivileged children. Once a month a small group of us distribute books for the youngsters to take home. Every week more of us return to read with them.

Most of us are retired teachers and Eric Carle’s books are among our favorites to share with the children.

In the late eighties, I was a first-grade teacher. It was my first teaching job and I took my responsibility seriously. Yes, I had obligations to the school, the district, the state, and certainly to the parents. But I also felt an obligation to my little students, not to disappoint them.

I knew first graders expected to learn to read. Furthermore, because they were six, they expected to learn right now!

So, on the very first day of school, I always read Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Its repetitive text and colorful illustrations guaranteed that by the end of the first day of first grade they were readers! They also trusted me to move them along the path to even more learning adventures.

So, thank you Eric Carle for helping me keep my promise to my students. “Yes, you will learn to read in first grade. Let me show you how.”

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