And the winners are… ALCS Annual Awards 2020

Earlier this month, Tony Bradman, Chair of ALCS acted as master of ceremonies for ALCS’s Annual Awards ceremony, which this year was streamed live online.

Introducing the ceremony’s two awards celebrating excellence in literacy and learning, Tony reiterated ALCS’ commitment to backing initiatives that support the wider reading community. “I think this year has demonstrated even more than ever, the importance of writers and what we do”, he said. The awards, he added, celebrated authors who “help others in educating young people, and improving literacy in areas that are of the utmost importance to ALCS.”

First came the announcement of the winner of the ALCS Educational Writers’ Award 2020. This award, run in conjunction with the Society of Authors, is the UK’s only award for creative educational writing and this year focused on books for 11-18 year olds. Liz Annetts, a secondary school librarian and one of the 2020 judges, introduced and praised the five outstanding books on this year’s shortlist, chosen in conjunction with her fellow judges; children’s author, Bali Rai; and secondary school teacher, Charlotte Baggley.

Liz first announced the runner-up for the 2020 Educational Writers’ Award: How to Be Autistic by Charlotte Amelia Poe, published by Myriad Editions, calling it “honest open and raw, moving and humorous”, as well as a “fabulous and unique book, and a must-read for anyone working in education”.

Then to the winning book: Black History Matters: the Story of Black History, From African Kingdoms to Black Lives Matter by Robin Walker, which Liz said the judges had found not only “comprehensive, well-illustrated and well-researched”, but “also a powerful book, and a must for every school, which contained an amazing amount of information in a readable format”.

Published by Franklin Watts, Black History Matters aims to provide young people with a comprehensive resource throughout Black History Month and beyond. It chronicles thousands of years of Black history, from African kingdoms, to slavery, apartheid, the battle for civil rights and more. Important and inspiring Black personalities, from Olaudah Equiano to Oprah Winfrey, are highlighted throughout, while achievements and progress are balanced alongside a look at the issues that continue to plague Black communities.

Accepting the award, Robin Walker, a writer and leading authority on African Studies in the English-speaking world, thanked both ALCS and the Society of Authors, along with his editor at Franklin Watts, Julia Bird for commissioning “this children’s education book whose title has proved extremely relevant to the unfolding political events of the last twelve months. It is a great honour for me to know that my book has been embraced”.

You can read more about the 2020 Educational Writers’ Award here.

The second award presented during the online ceremony was the Ruth Rendell Award for Services to Literacy, awarded annually by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) and ALCS. Launched in 2016 in memory of bestselling author Ruth Rendell, who was herself a powerful advocate for literacy, the award celebrates the author who has done the most to champion literacy throughout the UK over the past year.

Introducing the Ruth Rendell Award, Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive of the NLT, paid tribute to all the writers, illustrators and poets who, during the 2020 lockdown, had made a “profound effort to support the reading and literacy of children who were out of school, to make a difference to readers, and to support the education of adults when they couldn’t access education in colleges”.

He added that many writers had become “advocates for change” when COVID-19 “shone a light on inequality in our nation”, putting themselves “on the frontline in terms of advocacy for Black Lives Matter, and around issues of society inequalities”.

The winner of the 2020 Ruth Rendell Award is, he said, someone who “epitomises the way in which the writing community has addressed these challenges”. The judges had, he said, been unanimous in the decision to give the Award to hip hop artist, author and poet, Karl Nova.

Karl’s unwavering commitment to continuing and furthering his work to inspire young readers and writers through his creative writing workshops, talks and poetry  -which continued during lockdown through digital channels – enabled him to reach children and young people all over the UK and beyond.

In the past year, Karl has given his time to over 75 different visits to schools, organisations and festivals, both in person and virtually, to inspire young readers and writers and has fuelled his advocacy for equality.

Accepting the 2020 Ruth Rendell Award, Karl Nova said: “I didn’t see this coming! I do what I do because I love to do it. I got into poetry through hip hop music and spoken word slam poetry and that was my door into the world of literacy. The beauty of poetry is that it is for everyone and anyone can do it. I have been working with young people for many years now and to be recognised for it really does mean a lot. I want to thank everyone who nominated me for this award, and the National Literacy Trust and ALCS for this honour”.

You can read more about Karl Nova’s work here.

Watch the full awards ceremony here: