‘Coach Sloth’ visits MNW Elementary School
Former ISU football player hopes to inspire young authors
BARNUM — Everyone knows sloths can’t play sports — but what if they could? What sport would a sloth excel at? After a visit from an Iowa children’s book author on Wednesday, the students at Manson Northwest Webster Elementary School know this answer.
Ryan Sloth — a human, not a lovable but slow tree-hugger from Central or South American rainforests — used to play football for the Iowa State University Cyclones. He played defensive back for the Cyclones from 1997 to 2000. Sloth also went on to play for the Iowa Barnstormers as well as other Arena Football League teams. He’s even coached a bit.
But today, “Coach Sloth” visits schools across the state and across the country sharing his wisdom as a children’s book author. That was the case on Wednesday afternoon, when Sloth visited with the kindergarten through sixth graders of MNW.
“I’ve written 10 books now, so I like to come to the schools and talk to the kids and try to educate them and inspire them to become authors themselves,” he said.
Sloth’s journey to becoming a writer started in high school, where he was tasked with writing and illustrating a story for a ninth grade school project. What emerged was the beginnings of what would eventually become “Sammy Sloth: Sport Superstar.”
In the book, Sammy Sloth is searching for a sport to play. He tries football, basketball, track, swimming, baseball and more, all to learn he’s just too slow for those sports. But then he finds the perfect sport for a sloth — golf.
Sammy Sloth’s search not only ties in the author’s love of sports, but teaches the lessons of persistence and resilience, Ryan Sloth said.
Sloth had “so much fun” with revisiting his Sammy Sloth story and publishing it, that he started writing and publishing more during the off-season while he coached for the Barnstormers. He’s written books with the help of his son, Tucker, and his daughter, Taylor. He’s also written an anti-bullying storybook as well.
During the author’s talk at MNW, he had students help tell the story of “Hank the Bully,” a mean honey badger who terrorizes his classmates. Through Hank’s actions and the other student’s reactions, the MNW students learned about how “bullying is not cool.”
Sloth said his ultimate goals for his presentation were to emphasize the anti-bullying message and to encourage the young students to pursue writing.
“I’m trying to inspire them to go home, come up with ideas and use things that they enjoy doing, some of the fun activities they do,” he said. “I’m sure summertime, they’ve had all kinds of visits or vacations — use those ideas and develop their own characters and develop their own ideas for stories and kind of get that ball going. And someday, they’ll write their own best-selling book and I can read their book.”
Fifth-grader Makayla Reekers enjoyed the presentation, even getting to participate in the telling of the “Hank the Bully” story.
“I liked how he wrote the books all about the characters, like how they became realistic and stuff like that,” she said. “And in the bully book, it actually tells something to the kids like not to bully.”
“I liked that he came to our school and I liked how he picked people to come up to do the characters,” Reekers added.