Former Lady Vol creates sports-based children’s sensory book

Orange and White Nation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – “Duck…Cow…” the words echo through their family home in Colorado.

Nicole Stoltenberg is used to hearing her two-year-old son identify animals as he flips through the pages of a barnyard animal book, one of at least ten books that focus on barnyard animals that can be found in their home.

“We were getting tired of reading barnyard animal books and farm animal books for the one-thousandth time to our little boys,” Stoltenberg said. “I played volleyball in college, my husband is a huge sports fan, so we were like why are there no books to encourage sports?”

She played volleyball at the University of Tennessee from 2007-2010. Stoltenberg, then Fowler, knows the impact sports can have on a person’s life – particularly a child.

“Not everyone is going to be a collegiate athlete or a pro athlete but there are so many benefits for kids in sports, from social, to mental, to physical,” she said. “We just wanted to get kids thinking about sports and wanting to play sports as early as they could.”

“Not everyone is going to be a collegiate athlete or a pro athlete but there are so many benefits for kids in sports, from social, to mental, to physical.”

Nicole Stoltenberg

Stoltenberg, alongside her husband Todd and their friend Brandon, began working on ‘You Can Play Sports,’ a sensory book meant to help toddlers create meaningful associations to sports. The book features eight different sports with a different ball for each so children can become familiar with not only what a sport looks like but what the equipment needed for each feels like.

“We took the path of thinking through the eight more popular sports, both men’s and women’s, so we landed on eight sports like football, basketball, volleyball, and tennis,” Stoltenberg explains. “Also we were trying to think through the different textures because a golf ball feels so different than a volleyball.”

The trio is self-publishing the book and has worked with a printer to source the balls and get the samples ready – a process that has come with some trial and error to perfect the product.

“The golf ball was probably the most challenging the first book that we got back it was half a golf ball in the book,” she said. “We were like no, no, no not an actual golf ball.”

Because they are self-publishing the book a Kickstarter was launched on April 13 to help get awareness out and get a lot of pre-orders so that they can make a big purchase from the printer.

“Because the book is touch and feel we have to go through the U.S. Consumer Safety Testing Commission, which is really expensive,” she said. “This will help to kind of get those funds to do a really large print as well as go through the testing.”

Everyone who backs ‘You Can Play Sports’ through the Kickstarter will receive five books as well as a sports-related memory game for children.

Once the book is in retail, a portion of every book sold will be donated to Good Sports, an organization that gives all kids the lifelong benefits of sport and physical activity by providing new equipment, apparel, and footwear to those most in need.

“Sports have been so impactful for my life and have given me ample opportunity,” she said. “That was something that we could really help to give back to the community and help encourage kids to get into sports. We thought that was pretty cool for a book to do that and that’s what I’m most excited about for the book to launch.”

Kickstarter Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1217867256/you-can-play-sports



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