Greg James and Chris Smith win Ruth Rendell Award 2024

The award recognises the individuals that have had the most significant influence on literacy in the UK in the past year.

The fellow Radio 1 DJ’s, Greg James and Chris Smith, were announced as winners of the Ruth Rendell Award for Services to Literacy at last night’s ALCS Annual Awards ceremony at the Goldsmiths’ Centre in London.

Greg and Chris were nominated for their work profiling the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House UK’s Libraries for Primaries campaign to transform primary school libraries in the UK, which face underinvestment. The pair also visited schools throughout the country to inspire a love of reading and writing. 

On winning the prize, Greg and Chris said: “We’re absolutely delighted and actually really rather shocked to receive this award, considering the other amazing nominees. We love visiting schools and meeting our readers, and hopefully this incredible honour will help get the message out there that every primary school should have a library.”

The judges praised the pair for their passion: “Chris and Greg have both compassion and passion for libraries and children’s access to reading, and that is really crucial right now”.

Poet and Author-in-Residence in the Department of Public Health & Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, Laura Mucha, was announced as runner-up for her poetry workshops and training sessions in schools. The judges said: “Laura’s sensitivity is extraordinary, and she is deeply committed to what she is doing. Thinking about the vulnerability of young people’s mental health at the moment, her work is so important.”

The shortlist also included Michael Morpurgo, Sharena Lee Satti, Richard O’Neill, Harry Heape and Ellie Crawshaw-Prince.

ALCS Chief Executive Barbara Hayes said: “As an organisation deeply committed to championing literacy, we are delighted to see those shortlisted going above and beyond to promote this important life skill. Greg and James are such passionate advocates and have inspired a love of reading in school children up and down the country. Congratulations to Greg and James, as well as our runner up Laura and all those shortlisted.” 

National Literacy Trust Chief Executive Jonathan Douglas said: “I am thrilled to celebrate Chris Smith and Greg James as the winners of the Ruth Rendell Award this year. They have given their time, enthusiasm, and passion to championing school libraries and consistently promoted the importance of reading for enjoyment with children across the country. At the National Literacy Trust, we know that reading for pleasure can have a real impact on a child’s future, supporting their literacy skills, their wellbeing, and their confidence, and Chris and Greg’s dedication has made such a difference to so many lives. Congratulations to them both – they are deserving winners.”

The award was launched in 2016 by ALCS and the National Literacy Trust in honour of the best-selling crime author and literacy advocate Ruth Rendell, who passed away in 2015. Previous winners include Andy McNab and Cressida Cowell. Dapo Adeola and Nigel Lungenmuss-Ward were last year’s joint winners.

You can read about the winners of the other two prizes from the awards ceremony below:

V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize

ALCS Educational Writers’ Award