To celebrate Outdoor Classroom Day we are absolutely thrilled to be joined by childrens author Ellie Jackson. Author of the number one childrens book series on ocean plastic and climate change Wild Tribe Heroes.
Ellie Jackson is a children’s author writing true stories for primary and preschool children about real environmental issues. She is also a mother of four young children and has a background teaching.
What led you to a career in writing and have you always been interested in the natural world?
I was incredibly lucky to spend most of my childhood outside in nature. My parents took us wild camping and hiking regularly and I spent all of my holidays at the beach. We would spend hours looking up birds, butterflies and insects and nature was always just in the backdrop of almost everything we did. Geography was always my favourite subject at school and this led into an Environmental Science degree which in turn led to being a Geography teacher. After emigrating to Australia and starting my family, we were incredibly lucky to spend a year living on a tropical island. We witnessed a turtle being released back into the sea and after visiting the turtle hospital on the mainland, we learned all about the problem for turtles with plastic in the oceans. My four year old daughter was then beach cleaning mad and with every piece she felt like she was saving a turtles life. I thought what a brilliant idea for a story and I wanted to share this with as many children as possible so the idea for my first book, Duffy’s Lucky Escape was born! 6 books later and over 1.5 million children reached, I had no idea the impact of watching that little turtle going into the sea would have!
What is your favourite thing about your role and environment?
I absolutely love working with children and seeing their hope and inspiration for the future. With so much destruction and challenges going on with our environment at the moment, this can be an overwhelming area to focus on. When you see children racing around a beach trying to find rubbish, or see a whole school cheering for no more plastic it really makes a massive difference and gives me every hope for the future.
What are the challenges you face in a nature based career?
I find the biggest challenge is trying to engage people with these issues. We all lead busy lives and finding time to make changes can feel like the last thing we want to be doing. By engaging with young children who are keen however, you can really start to inspire them at an early age so that these habits are second nature for them and they in turn can motivate the adults.
What are your outdoor essentials?
I have four young children and I take them outside in nature as much as possible - partly for their enjoyment and exercise, partly for my own mental health and partly to get out of tidying up the house! They are all old enough now to pack and carry their own bags and we will head out in all weathers, especially during this last year in lockdown, we have been able to really explore our local area. The best thing to keep the kids happy outside is food! We take a small camping stove and I cook up sausages for lunch and then hot chocolate and marshmallows for the afternoon. Adds extra excitement!
Do you have a favourite place in nature?
My absolute favourite place is always going to be the beach - it doesn't’ really matter which beach, I just love the sea and being around water. I lived on a boat for 7 years and when you are that close to the water day in and day out, it is hard to be away from it for very long! It inspires me, relaxes me and energises me and I am so grateful every day that I live so close to the sea. If I had to pick my favourite beach it would be Holywell in Cornwall - just stunning!
Do you have any advice for young people who may be considering a career in becoming an author?
The most important thing about being an author is to enjoy the process and to enjoy what you are writing about! Find an area that interests you and build a niche for yourself in that area. The books I write are the only true stories about these issues that I have come across and as such they work really well to give children the facts but in a familiar picture book format with a happy ending. Get as much practice as writing as you can, ask friends and family for feedback and make sure you do your research! I started off writing not knowing a single thing about the book publishing process and it is a steep learning curve but very rewarding!
How can families teach children about climate issues?
The books I write are for all ages of children between 3-10 and this is perfect for children to share with their families. It is really important for this age group that we minimise scare tactics or upsetting statistics.
Children need to feel that there is something they can do to make a difference so listen to your child and help them work out what actions they can take. Maybe it is something simple like reducing plastic at home, walking to school or making a poster to share with their neighbours. It all starts with a single step and we need our children to get us started!
Ellie Jackson will be joining us on Outdoor Education Day on Facebook to be doing an exclusive live reading of one of her books. Join us at 11am with your little ones to hear an incredible tale.
To find out more about this wonderful book series and ways to educate your children on these important issues. Please visit her Facebook page.