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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Thursday, Friday 10 am - 4 pm
  • Saturday 10 am - 5 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 5 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Visit the carle


Our Approach

The Educational Philosophy at The Carle

All of the education programs at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art are built on the premise that picture books help to inspire a lifelong love of art and reading. Excellency, originality, and a wide range of opportunities for creative inquiry and appreciation of the visual world define our offerings. Our goal is to support and engage all visitors regardless of their level of familiarity with art and art making.

Our on-site programs, which encourage careful observation in the galleries, book discussions in the Reading Library, and time spent exploring materials and techniques in the Art Studio, all draw heavily on the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) and the Reggio Emilia model of education, approaches designed to foster critical and creative thinking skills and personal connections with the world of art.

Support for educational programming is generously underwritten by:


Visual Thinking Strategies

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is an elementary school curriculum developed by Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine. It uses a learner-centered method to examine and find meaning in visual art through a sequence of carefully selected fine art images. This work was strongly influenced by that of psychologists and educational theorists Rudolf Arnheim, Jerome Bruner, and Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky’s research concerning the relationship of language to thought, and his findings about growth that occurs from interaction with others, were particularly influential in the development of VTS.

Students look carefully, develop opinions, express themselves, consider multiple viewpoints, speculate together, argue, debate, and build on each other’s ideas, and sometimes revise their conclusions. They are also asked to support their opinions with evidence as they try to decode complex and diverse material and construct meaning together. This approach not only uses art to teach thinking, communication skills, and visual literacy, but also helps students practice respectful, democratic, collaborative problem solving.

At The Carle we use carefully selected original illustrations to engage students in facilitated discussions through the use of the VTS open-ended questions: What's going on in this picture?  What do you see that makes you say that? What more can we find? Program Guides are trained to paraphrase student responses, actively listen, validate individual views, demonstrate language use, and reinforce a range of ideas. 

To learn more about VTS, see the Visual Thinking Strategies website.

The Whole Book Approach

The Whole Book Approach, developed at The Carle by former museum educator Megan Dowd Lambert, is designed to expand engagement with the picture book as an art form by creating opportunities to discuss how the pictures, design, and production elements of the picture book interact with the text to create an artistic whole. During a Whole Book Approach storytime, educators engage the listener in conversation in which the picture book serves as the provocation that engages them in careful observation, listening, and critical and creative thinking. Lambert's book, Reading Picture Books with Children, is available for purchase in the Museum Shop.

The Whole Book Approach shares some common ground with the American Library Association’s Dialogic Reading, a technique that has shown that pausing during read aloud times to talk about the story aids, rather than hinders, comprehension by providing time for reflection, clarification, and expansion. By expanding the “Hear and Say Reading” supported by Dialogic Reading strategies, the Whole Book Approach becomes the “See, Hear, and Say Reading,” in support of enhancing both visual as well as verbal literacy.

If you would like to bring The Whole Book Approach to your school, see Book-Centered Programs for Youth & Families.

Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia educational project is ever-evolving, growing out of the Italian infant-toddler centers and preschools in Reggio Emilia and Pistoia, Italy. The late Loris Malaguzzi, a powerful innovator in education, developed this educational approach after World War II, carefully connecting theory and practice. Today it is studied by educators all over the world.

This passage from educators at The North American Reggio Emilia Alliance, explains:

Educators in Reggio believe that children have the right and the ability to express their thinking, theories, ideas, learning and emotions in many ways. Therefore, Reggio educators provide children with a wide range of materials and media, and welcome a diversity of experiences, so that children encounter many avenues for thinking, revising, constructing, negotiating, developing and symbolically expressing their thoughts and feelings.

To learn more about Reggio, see the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance.

The Art Studio at The Carle is especially inspired by Reggio Emilia, offering guests materials and tools that encourage open-ended explorations and a chance for personal expression. The Carle has collaborated with educators in Pistoia for almost ten years, including conferences and a special study tour abroad. See our Reggio Emilia-Inspired Programs.

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