How to Celebrate Creativity and Caring on International Dot Day

Sep 03, 2019

Making the world a better place—it’s not officially on the to-do list as a stand-alone item, but it’s part of why we do what we do every day. To that end, I’m always on the lookout for the projects and collaborations that bring depth and substance to my work, the projects that create memories for kids, the celebrations that have meaning. And one of the celebrations I most look forward to every year is International Dot Day.

If you’re not familiar with Peter Reynolds, stop reading right now (I’ll wait) and go to the library and check out any of his books. They’re the kind of stories that make me say, “Awww….” and “Wow, profound!” all at the same time. My faves (other than “The Dot”) include “Say Something” and “The Word Collector.” As an added bonus, Reynolds delivers illustrations that mirror our classrooms—wonderfully diverse faces. It’s a detail that is no doubt deliberate, but comes across as effortlessly natural in his work.

Just make a mark and see where it takes you
Peter Reynolds, “The Dot”

In “The Dot,” Reynolds introduces us to Vashti, a girl who does not see herself as an artist. She’s been gently encouraged by her art teacher to make her mark, but the blank page continues to intimidate her, until, in a fit of frustration, she makes one angry dot. Her teacher, a wise and compassionate person, insists that Vashti sign it. After all, it’s her art.

Vashti returns to school the next day to see her dot framed and on display. Seeing her dot, she admits, “I can make a better dot than that.” One better dot leads to another and yet another until Vashti discovers that she is indeed an artist. But the magic doesn’t stop there… Vashti encounters a boy who thinks he can’t draw a straight line, and she uses her art teacher’s strategy to help him find his own inner artist.

International Dot Day is proof that even the smallest positive action has ripple effects that change our planet and the lives of the people on it. In September 2009, an Iowa teacher decided to commemorate the sixth birthday of Peter Reynolds’ “The Dot” by celebrating its message with his students. He sent a tweet inviting others to join him, and Dot Day was born.

What started in a single Iowa classroom has grown to be an international event each year on (or about) September 15. It’s the perfect opportunity to take a book (and its message) and make an indelible mark (or, if you prefer, a dot) upon the memory of a child—a message of courage and confidence, creativity and collaboration. It’s a moment to impress upon kids the creative power they hold, the beauty of their unique gifts and that each day we have the chance to lift others up.

Of course, Peter Reynolds, who is all about things that make the world a better place, has championed International Dot Day, formed The Dot Club, and created an entire website to promote and support its growth.

At its most simple, Dot Day is an opportunity to share Reynolds’ incredible book and open kids’ minds to his message that we can each make our mark. Taking it to the next step and giving children a chance to be creative as a way to respond to his book is great (and there’s an educator’s guide to help in the lesson planning), but the ultimate goal is to collaborate with others, to make the world not only a better place, but a smaller one as well.

Of course, there’s an active Twitter account with nearly 10,000 followers (@DotClubConnect) and a Facebook community of almost 15,000. This year, September 15 falls on a Sunday, so the “official” Dot Day is Friday, September 13. But Reynolds would be quick to remind you that it’s really September 13ish, recognizing that the exact date is not the essential part of the celebration. It’s all about the message. So, if it doesn’t fit in your world on September 13, then the 12th will do or even the 16th.

This year, International Dot Day will also include a Facebook Live session with twins Peter and Paul Reynolds on September 13 at 11 a.m. EDT. The International Dot Day Facebook page has captured some of the magic of years past: Dot Day from Borneo, Dot Day in Nepal, and this out-of-the-box way to celebrate dots from Portugal. As you can see, the possibilities are virtually endless.

With my kiddos in the library, I’ve shared “The Dot” in September, but this year, I’m upping my game and inviting collaboration from both of my school buildings. While we haven’t quite got it all scheduled yet, one of my art teachers and I have committed to collaboration, and I’m excited to see what may evolve. Follow me on Twitter to see what we cook up or share your own projects on social media with the hashtags #DotDay and #Makeyourmark.

As part of the inspiration, I love this video of Peter Reynolds showing us just how easy it can be to make our mark starting with just one dot. As a child, my art instruction consisted of a nun handing each of us a coloring sheet and insisting we stay inside the lines. When high school came and I had more options, I already didn’t see myself as an artist. I adore how Peter Reynolds opens the gates of creativity, simplifying what “art” really is, and gently coaching us to make a dot and see where our imagination takes us. With a little bit of Dot Day magic, I think I might be able to see myself as an artist after all.

Let’s make a mark and see where it takes us! Let’s help kids feel empowered to make their own unique and confident mark. Let’s be change agents, one dot at a time.


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