Tipton St John children's author wins national award for pioneering work
- Credit: Jo Earlam
A children’s author, who’s first story was inspired by her volunteer work in a Devon primary school, has won the Marine Conservation Society Outstanding Achievement Award.
The announcement was made at the charity’s 2020 AGM, held on Thursday, November 19 via Zoom because of Covid restrictions.
Award winner, Jo Earlam, from Tipton St John, is author of three children’s books. The first ‘Tuamor the Turtle’ Jo wrote in 2014 when she was a volunteer at Bassetts Farm Primary School, in Exmouth, listening to Year 3/4 children read aloud.
As part of a marine awareness project The Blue Mile, Jo read a letter to the class, as if from a turtle about plastic pollution in the ocean. The response and feedback from the children inspired her to seek an illustrator Mark Hannon, and working with Plymouth based Brilliant Autobiographies, the story was published in November 2015.
The following May, the book became a charity partner of the Marine Conservation Society, with sales from each copy going to support its work and Jo volunteered as an MCS Education Sea Champion.
She’s delivered more than a hundred voluntary presentations on plastic pollution to primary school classes throughout the south west and as far afield as Shropshire and Birmingham.
Some schools have chosen to study the book for National Curriculum literacy projects, at KS1 and KS2, connected to Seas and Oceans, with children writing their own versions of the story, and using it as the basis for persuasive writing, sending letters to the Queen and Prime Minister and doing their own artwork and further research.
The MCS AGM and awards’ night was hosted by wildlife presenter and marine biologist Tom ‘The Blowfish’ Hird, who in announcing Jo’s win said: “Jo has pioneered innovative work in schools taking the dangers of plastic pollution, the work of the MCS and all our positive conservation messages to across the south west and beyond, using story-telling as a means to engage and get our message across.”
Jo said it had been a privilege to work with the MCS over the last four years and that she was thrilled and honoured to receive the award.
Jo is still a reading volunteer, now at Newton Poppleford Primary School, though restricted because of Covid. She has used her time to upload more resources online including reading the Tuamor story aloud, along with a second book ‘Archie Space Dog!’ and she’s recently written and published a third book ‘Rosa’s Footprint’, which involves primary school children writing their own stories of environmental awareness.
Jo said: “It’s amazing and wonderful to think all of this began by me signing up as a volunteer to listen to children read. The Tuamor book is dedicated to the children of Bassetts Farm Primary School. In helping them to read, they helped me to write.”