Katie Sloan used life experiences to write her first book Katie Sloan has always loved working with children. After graduating from Longwood University in... Adventures in writing
“Ready. Set. Go Bryce!” team: Katie Sloan, Bryce Conner and Carol Ray.
“Ready. Set. Go Bryce!” team: Katie Sloan, Bryce Conner and Carol Ray.

Katie Sloan used life experiences to write her first book

Katie Sloan has always loved working with children. After graduating from Longwood University in 1975, she began work as a kindergarten teacher in Chesterfield. 

“I recognized the vast differences in school readiness within the children in my classroom,” she said. “Many were ready to learn, some needed much encouragement to participate in group activities, others needed help communicating their needs and others needed help socializing with others.” 

These observations sparked Sloan’s interest in child development. She began reading about the development of the child from the womb through age six, following the philosophies of Burton White and Berry Brazelton, the authors.  

“I decided to pursue a master’s degree in early childhood education hoping to focus on the development

of the young child,” she said. “This degree was not available at VCU, so my advisor and I wrote a curriculum tailored for my program in early childhood education with a focus on child development.” This path led Sloan to the Preschool Special Education Department of VCU, which included child development as an integral component. 

Sloan believes that meeting the needs of the individual child is a gift each child deserves. She has combined her education and teaching experiences to develop and implement learning pathways, helping children and families pursue a lifetime of learning. Her quest led her to open Bermuda Hundred Preschool in Enon in 1983. 

“That has been my proudest accomplishment,” she said. The school’s name has been changed to Bermuda Hundred Child Development Center, and it still operates today. Sloan also taught in the early childhood department of John Tyler Community College and was the Director and Program Coordinator for Smart Beginnings before retiring in 2018. Sloan still works in education today as a consultant for early childhood programs and training.

Over the last 40 years, there has been just one thing missing from Sloan’s educational toolbox. “I had always dreamed of writing a children’s book but had not pursued the dream,” she said.  She wanted the book to have a positive message, thinking that the main character would probably have to overcome some challenging obstacles. In 2018 she met someone she was truly inspired by and wanted to write about while attending a Sportable RVA Tailgate fundraiser. Sportable is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps children and adults with physical and sight limitations have access to sports.

“I saw this energetic young boy intensely engaged in whirling around the field in his brand new power chair,” said Sloan.  “I introduced myself and asked him if we could write a book together. ‘Sure,’ he said, and so the book adventure began.” 

Sloan asked her artist friend Carol Ray to illustrate the book, which would also be her first book project too.  Sportable director, Hunter Leemon agreed to pay for publishing so that all proceeds would support the nonprofit.” We chose a local publishing company, Dementi Milestone Publishing.”

“Ready, Set, Go Bryce!” is a real-life story about Bryce Conner, a young boy of age eight who uses a wheelchair. At the age of five, Conner was diagnosed with Leigh’s disease, a rare inherited neurometabolic disorder that affects the central nervous system. The onset of the disease was triggered by a virus. Bryce lost the ability to walk, talk without slurring, and sit up. He has gone through extensive physical therapy and naturopathic protocols with very positive results. He is an intelligent, energetic enthusiastic boy who loves sports.

Sloan saw that Bryce’s enthusiasm for sports was not diminished by his use of a wheelchair. To participate in sports like soccer and basketball, he uses a wheelchair that has been specially adapted to his needs and allows him to be an active player. His teammates use adaptive wheelchairs too and are equally enthusiastic about the games.

Sloan’s son Josh also uses a wheelchair. He had a spinal cord injury at the age of 24 which left him paralyzed from the armpits down as a result of a bus crash in Ecuador where he taught English and language arts. Josh is the Community Outreach Coordinator for Sportable and the reason Sloan attended the fund raising event.

“I had no connection with adaptive sports before Josh’s accident. I have three sons, Josh and his twin brothers Will and Joe,” said Sloan. “Their dad and I encouraged them all to become involved in athletics. They played soccer [and] baseball [and] ran track, but football was the family favorite.”  Josh’s brother Joe is the offensive coordinator for Louisiana Tech’s football team.  Will is a Methodist pastor in Southampton County. Josh was an active sports participant with Sportable before joining their staff.

Sloan would like to write another book supporting children with special needs. “This book will have a focus on how all children, typically developing and those with challenges, want to be included in play and fun activities,” she said. She feels there is a need to help children understand these concepts during their formative years so they will develop a very important way of thinking throughout their lifetimes.

“The beauty of any life experience comes through one’s commitment to moving forward to face our challenges, regardless of the severity of the situation,” Sloan said. “Josh and Bryce have changed my life by being exemplary role models in perseverance and the determination to live a life filled with success and happiness.” Sloan hopes all people who read “Ready, Set, Go, Bryce!” and who meet Josh and Bryce will think of them as individuals who have the courage to face challenges with grit and a “can do” attitude that everyone needs in today’s world.