A spot of inclusion
Dot was having a bad week. The teenage ladybug saw the pumpkin that was the only home she ever knew carried off by some kids on a school field trip. She and her family had to relocate to a field of sunflowers, which of course meant leaving her friends and changing schools.
Dot has a yellow spot among all the black spots on her red shell. This brought her lots of unwelcome attention at her new school. On her second day of school, not having any other place to go, she sat under a four-leaf clover, and that’s when her luck changed. Some crickets get involved, they think Dot and her spot are pretty cool, and before you know it, everybody’s friends with each other.
That’s the plot of The SpOt, authored by Jefferson Middle School sixth-grader Holden Frye. Frye, Driftwood Drive, got the idea for the book following an assembly at Hoover Elementary School, when he was in fourth grade. The assembly was about inclusion, and a grant secured by school counselor Kim Gamble featured Kim Resh, founder of Mikayla’s Voice, a nonprofit that focuses on inclusion. The organization is named after Resh’s daughter, Mikayla, who was born with severe brain damage that left her legally blind, hearing impaired, without speech and in a wheelchair.
The family lives in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and Resh said Mikayla was the first student who used a wheelchair to attend their local elementary school.
“We were worried about how the other students would react,” she said. “The kids had lots of questions, but ultimately Mikayla got a good welcome.”
Mikayla was not expected to live into her teens, but lived to the age of 24.
The Mikayla’s Voice logo is a red ladybug with seven black spots and one yellow one—“We all have something that makes us unique, and we celebrate those differences,” said Resh—and Frye was so inspired that he approached Resh after the assembly and asked if he could write and illustrate a book about the yellow spot.
The assembly was in December of 2019. Frye worked on the book for half a year, throughout the ups and downs of the pandemic. He and Resh had weekly chats and progress reports every Wednesday afternoon until the book was finished in June 2020. In October, Gamble organized a virtual reading of The SpOt. She read it to Frye and his classmates who had attended the assembly. At the end of the reading, she asked for guesses on who they thought wrote the book, or how old they thought the author was.
“When I said ‘The writer is someone in your class,’ at first nobody believed it! I am so proud of Holden! Not just that he wrote and illustrated this book, but that it’s as amazing as it is.”
“I didn’t know how to comprehend that I was getting my book published,” he said. “I still don’t understand how big an achievement it is.”
Praise for The SpOt has been soaring. The law firm of Steidl & Steinberg is partnering with Achieva, a disability services and advocacy organization, to purchase and distribute the books to every kindergarten and first grade class in Allegheny County. Frye returned to Hoover in March to read The SpOt before the students, in the same place he got the idea for the book.
Frye had wanted to try his hand at writing and illustrating a book, but nothing came to mind until he heard Mikayla’s story. “I heard the story about spreading kindness, and I just got a kick of inspiration.”