A review of the book, The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds with stories of how the beautiful lessons from the pages of this book have positively impacted our lives.
Thursday, September 13, 2018 was International Dot Day at my boys school in honor of the book, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. My boys go to an elementary school that celebrates Dot Day by giving the students the choice to dress in dots and incorporating fun activities in honor of the book throughout the day. This is Jackson’s second year dressing up for Dot Day so he was super excited again this year to wear his pink tied dotted t-shirt and cover his entire outfit and face with colored dot stickers. This year was extra exciting because my oldest, Lincoln, who is in 5th grade this year, was equally excited to dress up for Dot Day.
Shhhh…. Do let him know that I was jumping for joy and super excited that he wanted to participate. The best part is he even wanted me to take his picture with the dot day outfit. I can honestly say that little moments like this fill my mom heart in a big way. We celebrate this fun day because it’s fun to wear dots to school, but more importantly we celebrate this day because the message and beauty of the book written by Peter H. Reynolds need to be celebrated and shared with everyone in the world.
I was a big fan of the book when I was a teacher working with students with disABILITIES in 1st and 2nd grades, but little did I know that years later I would have my own children who would hear the words of this book and see the beauty in their own abilities through the story and message of this book. I actually wrote a draft blog post about this book last year that I recently found it and I was so thankful I saved that draft. My draft post from last year quickly reminded me even more just how beautiful this book is and how the takeaways from this book can positively impact parents, teachers, and students.
I read the book, “The Dot”, to my Jackson the week before he started Kindergarten and it quickly became one of his favorite books. My little Jackson was able to make a text-to-self connection with this book because he related to the main character, Vashti. Vashti was lacking confidence in her ability to draw a picture and was sitting with a blank piece of paper in front of her. My little Jackson struggled with fine motor tasks and he had difficulty writing his name and coloring pictures were incredibly frustrating for him. Jackson was able to immediately know how Vashti felt in that moment because he had felt that way many times.
The pages of this book are filled with many beautiful lessons depending on the lens you are viewing it from when you read it. I want to continue sharing about how this book impacted my child, but before I continue, I would like to take a quick minute to share a lesson from this book that has impacted me as a teacher and a mom. I hope you can see the beauty and take away from this little moment and how it relates to this entire post.
Do you remember how I said that Jackson was able to immediately make a text-to-self connections because he related to that moment when Vashti, the main character in the book, was frustrated and sitting in front of a blank piece of paper? Well, in that moment Vashti’s teacher had a choice as to how she could respond to Vashti. In the book her teacher’s response was kind and loving and it ultimately encouraged Vashti to make a frustrated dot on her blank piece of paper.
Again, after Vashti made a frustrated dot on the paper, her teacher had another choice as to how she would respond to Vashti’s frustration. Vashti’s teacher could have taken that moment personally and forced her student to do what she wanted her to do and even possibly responded to her student with her own level of frustration. Instead, her teacher chose to celebrate Vashti and honor Vashti’s attempt to create a piece of art with a simple dot.
Vashti’s behavior including the blank piece of paper and frustrated dot on the paper was a reflection of how she was feeling in her heart about struggling to draw a picture. That moment was not about her teacher. That moment was about Vashti and how Vashti was feeling in her heart which ultimately impacted her behavior in that moment. In this book her teacher did not take this behavior personally, instead she saw Vashti’s frustration and chose a response that provided support and encouragement which ultimately led to increased confidence in Vashti’s abilities.
Guess what?! Vashti became a celebrated artist with her beautiful dots on paper. Can you imagine how this story would have turned out if her teacher had allowed Vashti’s blank paper and frustrated dot to upset her? Can you imagine if her teacher took it personally and responded to Vashti’s frustrated feelings instead of responding to Vashti’s heart and attempt? Okay, let’s not imagine that and let’s continue to celebrate that Vashti’s teacher chose a beautiful response to her student that led to increased confidence in Vashti’s abilities.
Now that I’ve shared a bit of my insight that I took away from this book as a teacher, I want to get back to the story about how this book has impacted my Jackson. Jackson was getting ready to start kindergarten and his heart was lacking a lot of confidence which led to frustration and anger. He did not have the best PreK year and I can see how his difficult PreK year along with a challenging start to life was negatively impacted his heart and his confidence. My goal in reading this book was to show Jackson that his drawings are beautiful, he is beautiful, and we will always celebrate his heart and hard work. Guess what Jackson wanted to do after we read this book? He immediately wanted to get a piece of paper and start drawing a dot.
When Jackson started Kindergarten that week we quickly saw his confidence start to grow. We recognized he was in a classroom with a teacher who celebrates who he was and we watched her build on his strengths. Since the first day of school last August he would come home with big smiley faces on his paper celebrating his special work. Jackson is in a school that celebrates Dot Day in honor of this book, so it makes sense that the teachers have the same type of heart that Vashti’s teacher had in the book. As Jackson’s parents we also make sure to celebrate his hard work that he does at home along with the work he brings home in his Friday Folder from school. We hang all of his pictures on a special wall and we tell him how proud we are of him for working to overcome push through tasks that are challenging for him.
Following the first month of Kindergarten we started watching Jackson blossom and feel proud of himself. He was excited to show his work everyday after school. He actually started sitting at the table to practice his letters and draw his own special pictures. He told us that one of his buddies at school is teaching him how to color. Jackson looked up at us with his big eyes and said, “Did you know my buddy told me all I have to do is go in a circle over and over until it’s colored? I’m getting so good coloring now”. He was filled with pride and confidence.
Towards the end of the first quarter of school, Jackson’s teacher stopped my husband in the hall before school to tell hm a story about Jackson. Just so you know, when’s teacher stops us we have a fear reaction because we are worried about what might have happened. To our surprise and joy, this was a beautiful story she wanted to share. His teacher said that she had a student who was very upset in class on Friday because the student was struggling to draw a certain picture. She observed Jackson walking up to this student and tapping him on the arm to tell him it was going to be okay. Jackson told this classmate that all he had to do was try his best and Mrs. Pape would still love it.
Oh my heart! This story touched my heart for several reasons. First, it showed us that Jackson feels safe and loved in his classroom. Second, it showed us that he knows if he tries his best his teacher is still going to love his work. Lastly, it showed us that my little Jackson expressed compassion for someone else who was also struggling with drawing and wanted to help him. He was imitating the love and compassion being modeled by his own classroom teacher, Mrs. Paper.
We continued to watch Jackson’s confidence grow in Kindergarten and he was always so proud to add all of his work to his art wall at home I’ll be honest, the art wall got out of control and I had to scale back a bit, but here we are a year later and we still celebrate his heart and his hard work with our words and our actions. Jackson had a strong desire to learn how to write his name last year but it was a daunting and difficult task for home because it required fine motor skills that were challenging for him. .
His entire kindergarten year he worked every morning before school and every chance he could get trying to write the letters in his name. We gave him his name to trace with dry erase marker and if he asked me to help him write a letter, I helped him. I never stepped in to tell him how to do something or to correct what he was trying to do. I saw his heart and my goal at the time was not for him to write his name, my goal was to build his confidence in his own abilities. I knew he would eventually learn how to write his name and his hard work would pay off.
Jackson’s kindergarten teacher celebrated Jackson’s hard work as he continued trying his hardest to learn how to write his name. This past April Jackson finally learned how to independently write his first name and his precious school and teacher honored him at an awards assembly for setting a goal and working hard to accomplish it. I was overwhelmed with emotion by this and filled with so much love for his teacher and his school for valuing and honoring my child right where he was in his abilities. I can honestly tell you that single act of honoring my Jackson for his hard work boosted his confidence and is helping him to continue learning and growing into this school year. This moment in Jackson’s life is exactly what the book, “The Dot” is all about in my opinion.
The incredible response from Vashti’s teacher not only fostered a love for art and helped to build Vashti’s confidence in her abilities, but it also modeled for Vashti a beautiful way to respond to someone in her life who may also be struggling or feeling frustrated. You will see in the book that the behavior modeled by Vashti’s teacher was later imitated by Vashti when one of her classmates was also frustrated. Oh friends, the depth of love and lessons in this book are beautiful. We are called as teachers and parents to celebrate our children and our student’s strengths and to help them to learn and grow. When we model the same type of behavior for our children as Vashti’s teacher modeled for her, our children will grow up and imitate similar responses with others in their lives.
I encourage you take a minute to read “The Dot” with your students and/or your children at home. This book can be viewed from different angles and a message and story can resonate with different people depending on their own life or own personal experiences much in the same way someone may interpret a song or movie differently. The storyline and pages in this book can provide our children with text to self and text to life connections and life lessons that will help them to feel more confident in their own abilities.
We can gain insight and knowledge into how to better respond to students. We can gain insight and knowledge into how we can better respond as parents. We can gain insight and knowledge into how our children are feeling and what they need from us to help them grow confident in who they are and in their abilities. We can all take something away from this beautiful, yet, simple book. I love that we get to celebrate Dot Day every year, but I also love that we can read this book often and continue to celebrate the message of this book everyday throughout the year.