'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Guest Post: The Tomistoma Fund - Using Picture Books to Aid Conservation Efforts

Kids’ Book Review is pleased to welcome Anthony Pine, the President of The Tomistoma Fund, to share his thoughts on the role children’s literature can play in educating and raising awareness of conservation issues.

When one thinks of a children's picture book, the first thing that comes to mind is usually not conservation (or at the very least not the conservation of an endangered species of crocodile). Fortunately, children's literature has become a focal point for modern conservation efforts all around the world and has proven to be a very valuable tool to promote awareness and education for a wide range of goals relative to conservation and human welfare. 

For instance, some small river villages in China and India have had very serious health implications related to cholera. Not only is the illness debilitating and deadly, but it is entirely preventable with good hygiene and careful sourcing and filtering of water. Unfortunately for these villages, there was a serious lack of awareness and understanding to the actual cause of what was making the villagers sick.

 When a humanitarian agency showed up, they brought with them a children's book that told the story of a child who helped teach his village the proper methods for sourcing water, using the restroom away from where water is collected, and proper ways to wash one's hands prior to eating. Although it may not have been the prettiest picture book on the planet, due to the reality of depicting cholera through pictures, the story played a very important part in creating a healthier lifestyle for many people. 

The beauty of pictures books is that they can inspire interest and imagination in even the youngest of children. Coupled with attractive illustrations and underlying plots and themes, one can relate a wide range of important issues and teachings to children, even before they can read a book!

As a research biologist, I have found a great interest in relating conservation to our children, as they truly are the next generation of people that will become stewards of our world. Recently, I have authored an educational children's book called A Crocodile Named Tom, which is aimed at promoting education and awareness for an endangered species of crocodile called the Tomistoma (Tomistoma schlegelii). The soon-to-be published storybook is fun, engaging, and heartfelt and helps readers relate to important issues regarding the conservation of endangered animals like the Tomistoma.

The overall goal is to have people relate and identify with the Tomistoma and current concerns to their conservation and survival. By doing this, our efforts can instill a lasting interest for the survival of the species and the habitat it calls home. The plan is for the book to be given, free of charge, to children at the locations where we conduct our field research efforts.

In this way, our nonprofit has the advantage of not only contributing to the successful awareness of the species, but we have the potential to garner local interest and support into making conservation efforts for the species possible. If the storybook becomes a hit, funds created from the book's sale can even become an important source of revenue for supporting future efforts for the species.

So in the end, I believe there is great potential to promote conservation issues through the usage of children's books. In many parts of the world where books are few and far between, educational children's books can play an important part in relating real issues to people in a lasting way. It is very hard to forget the memories that come from the bedtime stories of our youth. 

For more information about our storybook and how you can become involved and pledge your support, you can visit the Tomistoma kickstarter campaign. The book has been a collaborative effort from many people around the world and is written for efforts by a 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit called The Tomistoma Fund. To find out more about the illustrator, who has done an amazing job depicting the Tomistoma story through her watercolours, you can visit her website.

You can find out more about the goals for research and conservation by visiting The Tomistoma Fund website or facebook page.