Pinole, California (EastBayDaily) — National Punctuation Day (NPD), the holiday that reminds America that a “semicolon is not a surgical procedure,” celebrates its fourth anniversary September 24. But what started as a clever idea to remind corporations and professional people of the importance of proper punctuation has turned into an everyday mission to help school children learn the punctuation skills they need to be successful in life.
Founded in 2004 by former newspaperman Jeff Rubin, NPD is listed in Chase’s Calendar of Events and The Teacher’s Calendar, two directories published by McGraw-Hill.
The annual event is widely recognized. Bank of America in Tampa, FL, for example, commemorates NPD with a week-long array of celebrations and trivia contests. Last year, Rubin was a guest on dozens of radio shows, NPD received significant newspaper coverage, and the Dayton Business Journal in Ohio baked cookies and pastries in the shape of punctuation marks.
But notoriety alone wasn’t good enough for Jeff, who insists, “Creating a cause on the calendar doesn’t mean much unless you’re willing to do something about it.”
To that end, Jeff and his wife, Norma, created Punctuation Playtime, a 45-minute program for children in grades 1-6. Punctuation Playtime features games, activities and storytelling — even a rap song — to reinforce important punctuation lessons in an effort to enhance children’s reading, writing and communication skills.
Since premiering Punctuation Playtime last fall, Jeff and Norma have been as busy as commas in a Sears catalog. They have facilitated 30 Punctuation Playtime assembly programs in schools and after-school centers in Northern California. They just returned from a week in Chicago, where they took the program to an elementary school in Lake Forest, IL, and exhibited at two education fairs in the Chicagoland area. The Rubins are booked solid throughout the fall in Northern California, and will be taking Punctuation Playtime to Southern California later this year. They have also produced a 30-minute instructional DVD that trains teachers how to facilitate Punctuation Playtime in their schools.
Today, the metamorphosis from just another funky calendar event to everyday cause is complete — during the assembly program, Jeff appears as “Punctuation Man,” dressed in a blue super-hero costume with a bright red cape.
Teachers love the program and how Jeff and Norma interact with the children.
“Your program completely supports our curriculum content,” said Sally Feldman, a teacher at Washington Elementary School, in Point Richmond, CA. “You have wrapped up the best in teaching to bring to our students. I love the fact that you are not afraid to teach young children great skills!”
“That’s a typical comment we get from teachers after a program,” says Jeff, who works during the day as “The Newsletter Guy,” writing company newsletters for corporate customers out of his office in Pinole, CA.
Jeff founded National Punctuation Day in 2004 to draw attention to the importance of proper punctuation. It’s a day for librarians, educators and parents — people who are interested in teaching and promoting good writing skills to their students and their children. It’s also a day to remind business people that they are often judged by how they present themselves.
“Successful people have good communication skills, and that includes knowing how to write properly,” Jeff says. “Punctuation counts. A misplaced comma can alter the meaning of a message.”
It’s not just school children that need to learn the rules of punctuation.
“I’m stunned at how many executives and CEOs send me articles and correspondence that are poorly written and punctuated,” Jeff says. “Did they miss a year of school? I see billboards that scream to be corrected. Magazines and newspapers routinely make punctuation errors, either in their articles or in their display ads. Poor punctuation knows no sociological boundaries — everyone from high school dropouts to college graduates needs help with punctuation.”
Jeff, a member of the National Speakers Association and speaks frequently on writing, marketing, and integrity for small-business owners, is ready to tell anyone how he and his wife have energized thousands of children on a subject routinely regarded as boring and duller than dirt.
To learn how schools or companies can participate in National Punctuation Day, or to schedule an interview with Punctuation Man, call Jeff at (877) 588-1212 or e-mail him at jeff @ NationalPunctuationDay.com.