Karl Nova wins Ruth Rendell Award 2020 for outstanding contribution to literacy

Hip Hop artist, author and poet Karl Nova (Rhythm and Poetry, Caboodle Books) has won the coveted Ruth Rendell Award for his outstanding contribution to raising literacy levels in the UK

The Award, launched in memory of bestselling author Ruth Rendell in 2016 by the National Literacy Trust and Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), celebrates the author who has done the most to champion literacy throughout the UK over the past year.

A special screening of this year’s ALCS award announcements took place on the evening of 9 December. The ceremony featured a clip of Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, surprising Nova with the announcement of his win via Zoom. Former winners of the Award include Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, Andy McNab and Tom Palmer.

Although many wonderful, dedicated writers were nominated, this year’s panel of judges, Di Redmond, (Non-Executive Director of ALCS), Antonia Byatt, (Chief Executive, First Story), Kirsty Telford, (Deputy Director, Ministry of Stories) and Jonathan Douglas CBE (Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust) were unanimous in their decision to award Nova whose debut book, Rhythm and Poetry won the CLiPPA poetry prize 2018, this year’s Ruth Rendell Award.

Karl’s unwavering commitment to continuing and furthering his work to inspire young readers and writers through his creative writing workshops, talks and poetry continued during lockdown, through digital channels which 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.

This year, Karl Nova’s achievements included:

  • Fronting the Premier League Writing Stars poetry competition, inspiring over 7,000 entries with his poem Beautiful Ambition and returning to his old primary school to deliver an assembly and individual poetry workshops to Key Stage One and Key Stage Two classes, as well as officially opening the school’s new library
  • Being an ambassador for National Poetry Day, sharing a new poem, ‘see through my eyes’ to celebrate the day and inspire children and young people to get involved
  • Leading creative writing workshops in person and digitally for children and young people all over the UK, and internationally including at Hay Festival and Bradford Literature Festival

On winning the Ruth Rendell Award 2020 Karl Nova, said: “I was so happy when Jonathan told me the news. 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.”

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, said: “Karl is a fantastic ambassador for poetry and literacy. He has such a warm and infectious energy, and he has inspired and continues to inspire so many children and young people through his writing, his workshops, his advocacy for equality – an especially powerful and positive voice in 2020. Like many writers this year, he hasn’t let lockdown stop him, he’s been incredibly busy doing everything he can to support so many across the UK and further and working especially hard to support diverse and disadvantaged communities. Congratulations to Karl – a thoroughly deserving winner.”

Barbara Hayes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, said: “Karl has worked hard to use his platform and his poetry to encourage children and young people to get excited about literacy during this challenging time. He is a brilliant advocate for equality and diversity in literacy, and is an inspiration to so many. He is a truly worthy winner for this award. Congratulations Karl!”

To celebrate being the first poet to win the Ruth Rendell Award, Karl Nova has shared some of his top tips for getting children into poetry:

  1. Think of a theme, write down 10 words associated with that theme and use them to write a poem. It can rhyme, but it doesn’t have to!
  2. Pick an object you can see while out walking and try and make a rhyming couplet about it
  3. Try writing a haiku. This is a type of short poem from Japan made up of three lines. The first line must only have 5 syllables, the second must have 7 syllables and the third must have 5 syllables.
  4. Check out the poetry section in your local library, see what other people have been inspired to write about
  5. Take something you’ve been thinking about, worrying about, or trying to make sense of and write down your thoughts in whatever form comes to you naturally, just give it a go!

You can also find Karl’s top tips on the National Literacy Trust’s Word for Life website.