Ruth Rendell Award 2024 shortlist

The Ruth Rendell Award was launched by ALCS and The National Literacy Trust in memory of the author who championed literacy throughout her life.

We are delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2024 Ruth Rendell Award, which recognises the writer or author who has had the most significant influence on literacy in the UK over the past year.

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

The winner will be announced at a reception at Goldsmiths’ Centre in London on 22 February 2024.

The shortlist

Chris Smith and Greg James

Greg James and Chris Smith are the co-authors of Super Ghost, published in 2022, and The Great Dream Robbery, published in 2021. Greg is the host of The Radio 1 Breakfast Show, the loosely cricket-based podcast Tailenders and Radio 4’s Rewinder. Chris has worked as a newsreader and presenter on radio stations including XFM and BBC Radio 1, where he met Greg.

In between messing about on the airwaves, the pair co-authored the bestselling, award-winning Kid Normal series. Chris’ first children’s book as a solo author, Frankie Best Hates Quests, was published in 2022 and his second, Clarity Jones and the Magical Detective Agency, was published in May 2023.

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


Richard O’Neill

Richard O’Neill is an acclaimed and accomplished creative professional based in the North of England. He conducts nomadic storytelling skills training sessions across Europe, engaging with various institutions such as schools, universities, leading museums, and cultural spaces. Born into a traditional nomadic Romani family and brought up in various locations across the North deeply influences his work, inspiring him to leverage the power of storytelling in various formats to promote inclusion and acceptance.

Richard is actively involved in promoting diversity in literature. He co-founded Diverse Book Week and TOTTT publishing, to champion inclusivity and amplify diverse voices. Currently, he is focused on his newest project, The Northern Storytelling Academy.

The judges said: “Richard is doing something special and unique, which is bridging traditional oracy elements with the wider need for literacy skills.”


Sharena Lee Satti

Sharena Lee Satti is a poet, spoken word artist and educator based in Bradford. She is an advocate for women, always pushing the boundaries to campaign for women’s voices to be heard in society.

Sharena believes in the power of poetry and works hard in her community and beyond to ensure poetry is accessible to all. This has seen her nominated for the National Diversity Award (2022 and 2023), the British Indian Awards in 2020 and one of the ‘21 for 2021’ creatives most likely to make an impact on Bradford’s cultural. Sharena collaborates locally and nationally with schools, universities and organisations.

The judges said: “What struck me about Sharena was that she was nominated by several individuals who have been impacted positively by her work, which is something we’ve never had before.”


Harry Heape

When he was a little boy, Harry dreamed of being a writer, and a police dog. Now that he has written a few books, he is contacting police forces up and down the country to try and make the second part of his childhood dream come true. Criminals, rapscallions, and naughty crocodiles beware.

Harry is the author of several children’s book series including Indiana Bones and Shiny Pippin. He has supported the work of the NLT in the Bradford area.

The judges said: “Harry is a great, strong local voice doing powerful local work in and around Bradford.”


Laura Mucha

Laura Mucha is a poet and Author-in-Residence in the Department of Public Health & Primary Care, University of Cambridge. Her writing has won multiple international awards and been featured on TV, radio and public transport, as well as in hospitals, hospices, prisons, books, magazines and newspapers around the world. Laura often works with world-leading experts to make important ideas accessible. Her books and audiobooks, which include Being Me, Celebrate! and Please Find Attached, have been described as ‘stunningly original’ by BookTrust.

When not writing, Laura spends her time visiting schools across the UK and working with organisations such as the Royal Society of Medicine, National Literacy Trust, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, and UNICEF to try to improve the lives of children.

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.”


Michael Morpurgo

Sir Michael Morpurgo OBE FRSL FKC DL is a writer, playwright, performer and librettist. The author of more than 150 children’s books, he has sold over 35 million copies worldwide. A former teacher and vocal spokesperson for the benefits of reading for pleasure, he is currently the President of Book Trust. Between 2003–2005 he was Children’s Laureate and in 2018 he was knighted for services to literature and charity.

Many of Michael’s books have been adapted for stage and screen, including the phenomenal National Theatre adaptation of War Horse, which has been seen by over 10 million people in over 100 cities around the world, broke the West End record for weekly ticket sales, and won 5 Tony Awards and 2 Olivier Awards. Michael is also the co-founder, with his wife Clare, of the charity Farms for City Children.

The judges said: “Michael is a fantastic ambassador for literacy. He is so passionate about libraries and he really puts the work in with trying to enact change.”


Ellie Crawshaw-Prince

Ellie Crawshaw-Prince is the architect behind Pip and Pap Phonics, a Department for Education validated systematic, synthetic phonics programme. In response to the challenges posed by COVID lockdowns and an absence of phonetically decodable books for pupils at home, Ellie wrote a number of books for her pupils, featuring the aliens ‘Pip’ and ‘Pap’. Collaborating with talented school receptionist and illustrator David Tomkins, Pip, Pap and their outer space adventures were brought to life!

The overwhelming response from the children and the progress that they made was so strong, that post COVID, the initiative snowballed into Ellie creating a series of 119 decodable books and an accompanying phonics scheme to match. These resources, now widely used in the South East and South West, have proven instrumental in fostering successful reading outcomes for countless children.

The judges said: “Ellie is deeply invested and committed to children’s reading and helping them to develop their skills.”

You can find out more about the Ruth Rendell Award here.