Note: This post, by Terry Shay, originally appeared on the Pippin Insider, the blog for Pippin Properties, Inc.
International Dot Day first started in 2009 when I sent a Facebook message to Peter H. Reynolds, author of The Dot, with a vision of one day where kids in schools take a break from normal school work and test-preparation and get creative. I’ve been a teacher for twenty-nine years and I am always astounded how much attention is now focused on testing. Dot Day seemed like a way to counteract that, at least for a day. I always say that you should share your ideas and dreams with someone who will pour gas on them, that’s certainly what happened with this idea when I shared it with Peter.
The first year, I tweeted about the very first Dot Day. Some friends picked up on it, and started celebrating too. Through retweeting and sharing, more people started to jump in.
Counselor Teresa O’Meara and I did a joint unit with fourth grade vocal music class where we talked about “making your mark,” and the kids decorated dots that we hung around the room. In high school chorus, I laid out butcher paper and bought watercolors for them to make dots. In junior high chorus, we made a human dot! It was great fun.
That year, I was surprised to learn that schools I didn’t have any connection to were celebrating too! I was completely blown away by the response, including Richard Colosi’s work with his kindergarten class. I quickly realized the Dot Day, along with Peter’s book was something that spoke to people. The power of social media was palpable.
In 2010, more schools joined the movement. We didn’t keep track of numbers or participants, but it was fun to see people celebrating and sharing the work on Twitter. In 2011, two stellar and connected librarians, Shannon Miller and John Schumacher connected to Dot Day and with each other to super-charge the mission and the movement. They celebrated all week and used social media to spread the word.
Having super-connected teacher librarians made a huge impact. 2011 was the first year we kept track of participants—the total number was around 18,000. Far beyond my wildest dreams.
That same year, I received an email from Newbery Medal winner, Sharon Creech which contained a dot she created. I was struck by how cool it was to see what kind of dot a literary hero would make. Thus, Celebridots was born.
With the help of the Celebridots and passionate social media advocates, Dot Day 2012 grew to 839,000 participants. After that, the numbers continued to climb, 1.3 million in 2013, 1.8 million in 2014, and this year, 2.3 million. In addition to growth in participants, the number of countries involved in Dot Day has grown as well. This year, we had participants from 116 countries.
Matthew Winner, Shannon Miller, and Andy Plemmons had a huge impact on participation with their idea for an online document for people to seek connections with other classrooms, using Skype Classroom and Google Hangouts. Watching this develop has been a joy. With this tool, classrooms are connecting, reading the book, sharing their creations, and learning about other schools, states, and countries.
The success of International Dot Day is owed to many people who believed in a more creative and connected world and made it happen. Dot Day has been celebrated in classrooms, whole schools, after-school programs, homes, daycares, district offices, bookstores, hospitals and probably many more places. If you search the Internet for “International Dot Day” or follow #DotDay on Twitter, you will see that all of these celebrations went above and beyond that first year of butcher paper and human dots. It all started with the perfect book, which launched the imaginations of children and adults around the globe.