We are devastated to share the news that our amazing Story Spinner, Julie Sharp, died suddenly on Saturday 25 March. I have known Julie for more than 20 years and, for longer than I can remember, she has been a close and supportive friend. My children, now 25 and 28, took part in her beautifully written mini-dramas in our church services. So for me she has always been intrinsically connected with children and stories, with imaginative language and individualised inspiration.
When Julie began to talk about retiring as Head of English at Putney High School in 2016, I was quick to ask if she might want to be part of Learn to Love to Read, the charity I founded in March 2014 with her support and advice. I will be forever glad that she said yes - I know it brought enormous pleasure to Julie herself; to the whole new group of children lucky enough to be taught by her; and to me, as our friendship grew through being able to work together on something we both knew to be such a key part of children’s development.
We introduced her to our partner school Ronald Ross Primary School. Over the next few years she became an invaluable voluntary member of the team there, forging new friendships with the staff she worked alongside. Using all her specific skills and talents, she was able to offer support to small groups of Year 5 and 6 children, as well as work with them to develop the school magazine. As with everything Julie did, she adapted her sessions for each individual child, making them all feel special, encouraging creativity and bravery of thought. When COVID hit and schools closed, we came up with the idea of her writing the Ten Word Tales for Learn to Love to Read social media and website, each story inspired by ten words chosen by children, and illustrated by collages, also made by Julie. Just before her death Julie had finished the 21st Ten Word Tale, a labour of love and a wonderful legacy.
On hearing of Julie’s death, Ronald Ross Primary School said: ‘The staff and pupils at Ronald Ross Primary School are all deeply saddened that our dear Julie Sharp (Miss Sharp) has passed away. During the many years that Julie has given up her own time for us, she has had an immeasurable impact on us all. From inspiring and instilling her love of literature in all the pupils she worked with, to her incredible role as editor in chief of 'The Variety', her legacy will remain with us. Her generosity to us all was limitless and she will be greatly missed.’
I think everyone who knew Julie recognised how extraordinary she was, and that is reinforced by the huge outpouring of love from friends, colleagues and ex-pupils in response to the news of her death. Her absence is so sorely felt, but that grief is tempered by the knowledge that there are hundreds of children who read stories and love literature because of her devoted work. The trustees and staff of Learn to Love to Read send our condolences to all her family.
Teresa Harris, Founder of Learn to Love to Read
Julie's 21st Ten Word Tale, Mr Hoo's Homework, can be found on our website here - /pages/mr-hoo-s-homework