The Dot Review

51304XGSXVL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_The Dot, written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, dives into a subject everyone can relate to—thinking we can’t do something. For Vashti, it’s art. The opening page beautifully demonstrates her level of despair—her back is to her blank piece of paper and she bears a most unpleasant expression on her face. Her teacher encourages her by saying, “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”

What do people often do when first encouraged? Resist all encouragement. Vashti jabs her paper with a marker and says, “There!” As a side, my children and I have lots of fun acting that part out. Despite this reaction, her teacher kindly asks her to sign it and this is something Vashti realizes she CAN do. When her teacher later displays her work in a gold frame, Vashti realizes she CAN do much better than that and takes it upon herself to make an even better dot. From there, she makes all sorts of dots and her collection of dots are then placed in the school art show. When an art-admiring boy doesn’t think he could do great work like her, she inspires him by encouraging him to draw a simple line that he doesn’t think he can draw. And then tells him to sign it.

If you’ve ever had a teacher like Vashti’s, you are most fortunate. I certainly hope that my children will have teachers like this as well. But, it’s important to remember that as parents, WE are our children’s primary teachers and can instill messages like this in our children too—and it can be done through something as simple as reading and talking about a book together.

To get the conversation flowing, consider the following questions: Why did Vashti’s teacher frame Vashti’s one little dot with her signature? How did she feel about that? This last one might be an interesting answer, because she clearly isn’t happy about it, but nevertheless gets out her “never-before-used set of watercolors” and begins painting. Older children might start to tap into the concept of motivation.

There are various points in the book that could be related to your young one’s life such as the following: Vashti got super upset when she didn’t think she could draw—Have you ever felt that way about something you couldn’t do? This is also a great question for parents to answer as well. Is there any little part of that thing that you think you could do? Breaking apart skills into tiny pieces makes tasks more manageable for us ALL.

At the end you could ask, “How did Vashti encourage the little boy to do his own art?” To relate it to their own life consider asking, “Is there something you do well that you could teach someone else?” This last one is especially a great question for big siblings who might be feeling a bit overshadowed by younger siblings and could use direct encouragement to teach them about all the amazing things they know.

For some art fun, you and your kids can draw or paint some of your own dots! I did a project with my mom (a seasoned artist) prior to reading this book and discovered that painting dots is something that all ability levels can enjoy.

My Dot—which actually looks quite similar to “The Dot”. Guess I still need to sign it!

Because while I had some insecurities about doing a project years after traditional art classes had ended, I was reminded that art isn’t about how “good” you are, it’s that you express yourself through the simple act of putting something—anything, down on the paper. Even if it’s only a little dot to let everyone know how mad you are.

Note: The above dot project came from Heather Smith Jones’s Water Paper Paint: Exploring Creativity with Watercolor and Mixed Media (2011) and I highly recommend it for anyone who feels like they just can’t paint.

 

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