By Kim Resh, mother to Mikayla Resh
It is a certainly a most amazing accomplishment that Our Friend Mikayla, the book inspired by my daughter and written and illustrated by her third grade classmates, is now in every public elementary school in Pennsylvania. Still, I’m really not entirely surprised. I believe in kids. I always have. And if at any time I had doubts, kids have always renewed my faith.
No matter how certain we were of our decision to include Mikayla in a regular education classroom, we were afraid of how the other kids would react and respond to her. But our fears were unfounded. From the very first day, the children wanted to push her in her wheelchair, sit next to her at lunch, even turn off her feeding pump when it alarmed. So when they grew old enough to write their story, I knew theirs was a message worth sharing.
I’ve always said that even if the book was never published, the time we all spent working together was an incredible experience. Our honest discussions were priceless and are clearly portrayed through the kids’ writing. When I edited their words into one story, I was surprised at how easily the book wrote itself. And to be honest, almost everything else has fallen into place with equal ease.
I wrote one grant for publishing. That was approved, and another organization asked to help. Individuals and families privately donated copies of Our Friend Mikayla to their own school libraries. It was obviously more difficult to find donors for a statewide distribution program so I am grateful to Walmart and Air Products for their grants, which respectively afforded the printing and mailing of books across the state.
Still, am I surprised every public elementary school finally has a copy? No, humbled and most appreciative, but not surprised. It is all about the kids. They are smart. They understand more than adults at times. Young children are innocent and pure, capable of unconditional friendship and compassion. If learned young, these lessons last forever. By including our students with and without disabilities in the same classrooms, they will teach other life’s most important lessons. Our Friend Mikayla is not just a book, it is a wonderful example of what is possible in every school across the state, country, and beyond.