Tom Palmer wins 2019 Ruth Rendell Award for outstanding contribution to literacy

Children’s author Tom Palmer has won the coveted Ruth Rendell Award for his outstanding contribution to raising literacy levels in the UK.

Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, presented the Ruth Rendell Award to  Tom Palmer at a special ceremony hosted by ALCS in London. Former winners of the Award include Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, and author Andy McNab.

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

In 2019, Tom Palmer’s achievements included:

  • Rocky of the Rovers, a live story published daily during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, in partnership with the National Literacy Trust, The FA and Rebellion. Rocky of the Rovers was designed to engage reluctant primary-aged readers and be read aloud in the classroom or at home with parents, and was the first story in the 60 year history of the Roy of the Rovers comic series to feature a female lead. The live chapters were downloaded daily by more than 2,500 schools and parents.
  • Rugby Academy, a trilogy of stories with free accompanying teaching resources to promote reading for pleasure during the Rugby World Cup 2019.
  • Becoming children’s writer in residence at the RAF Museum and working with Reading Force to promote reading to British Armed Service families.
  • Undertaking visits to 150 schools across the UK to deliver engaging workshops and activities to inspire 30,000 children’s reading and writing.
  • Palmer’s latest children’s title, Armistice Runner (published by Barrington Stoke), has won four children’s book awards, including the FCBG Children’s Book Award for older readers, and has been nominated, longlisted or shortlisted for an additional 12 awards, including the CILIP Carnegie Medal

Upon receiving the award, Tom reflected on his own reading journey. Starting out as a reluctant reader when he was young, the support of his mum, his interest in sport and his curiosity around sports stories helped him develop an interest in reading.

He said: “I’m absolutely thrilled: this is so exciting for my family, as well as for me. And it’s a particularly special achievement as I found books intimidating as a child and feared I’d fail to finish them. But short sport articles in newspapers and magazines – including Roy of the Rovers – and sport books from the library were a great way into reading for me.

“Anyone can enjoy and strengthen their reading if they find the right thing for them, and that’s what I really try and get across to all the young readers I meet. I’m also very proud that many of my books are published by Barrington Stoke, whose books are written, edited and designed with reluctant readers and those with dyslexia and visual stress. I want to thank everyone who nominated me for this award, and the National Literacy Trust and ALCS for this honour.”

Stella Binoy, Head of Academy at Hackwood Primary Academy, nominated Tom Palmer for the award. She joined Tom Palmer at the awards ceremony and said: “Children love Tom’s books and they inspire them to read more. As well as being a great children’s writer, his passion for education and for supporting children shines through in his website, his readiness to provide resources linked to his books and his willingness to share his ideas. His video that teaches children to edit their writing made an enormous difference to my writers last year. I have been lucky enough to meet Tom and see him engaging with children. His visit encouraged fathers to be involved in reading with their children too, which I found an inspiration and benefitted those children immensely.”

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, said: “We were overwhelmed with the number of nominations Tom received for this prestigious award from teachers, librarians and parents. Tom is creative, fun and incredibly dedicated to helping children better their reading skills and discover a transformative love of reading. He is particularly brilliant at engaging the most reluctant readers through sport and the armed forces, and supporting their onward reading journey. His efforts this year have been truly extraordinary – from writing captivating live stories during the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Rugby World Cup, to travelling the length and breadth of the UK to inspire thousands of school children to get reading. Congratulations to Tom – a thoroughly deserving winner.”

Barbara Hayes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, said: “The Ruth Rendell Award is a brilliant way to celebrate authors who champion literacy and we’re thrilled to be presenting Tom with the honour this year; he’s an extremely worthy winner and joins the ranks of previous winners Andy McNab and children’s laureate, Cressida Cowell. It’s essential that we continue to celebrate authors’ hard work in this field, and Tom has worked tirelessly to encourage children from all over the UK to get reading. Congratulations to Tom on his well-deserved achievement.

About the National Literacy Trust

The National Literacy Trust is an independent charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK and giving children and young people from disadvantaged communities the literacy skills to succeed in life. Its research and analysis make it the leading authority on literacy. It runs projects in the UK’s poorest communities, campaigns to make literacy a priority for politicians, businesses and parents, and supports schools.

Visit to find out more.

Photographs © Matt Crossick