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The ALCS Annual Awards

By Grace Briggs-Jones, Benedetta Giordani, Maria Sadek and Clara Garnier-Barsanti 



The ALCS (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) Annual Awards recognise exceptional contributions to literacy and education. These awards comprise three distinct prizes: the ALCS Educational Writer’s Award, the Ruth Rendell Award for Services to Literacy and the V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize. Established in 2008, the ALCS Educational Writer’s Award, the UK’s only award of its kind, celebrates educational writing that sparks creativity and fosters a love of reading. Named as a tribute to bestselling author and literacy advocate Ruth Rendell, the Ruth Rendell Award acknowledges individuals who champion literacy across the UK. Finally, the V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize, introduced in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature for the first time this year, rewards the best unpublished short story of the year.


The first of the three awards is the V.S. Pritchett Short Story which, is on the ALCS list for the first time. As it celebrates an unpublished short novel – which has to be between 2000 and 4000 words – we can’t wait to see the winning manuscript “Voyagers,” written by Tom Vowler, appear in Prospect magazine and in the Royal Society of Literature’s Review. Tom Vowler, a veteran in the literary landscape (Scott Prize winner with The Method, and publicly acclaimed What Lies Within) is very vocal on his love of the short forms, and this reward showcases it. On winning the prize, Vowler said “The short story is such a marginalised form in the UK, we’re still hung up on the apogee of the written form being the Victorian novel.” He then goes on to say “For me, it’s the most exciting literary forms and prizes like this really bring it into the spotlight.”


As we often find ourselves running out of time to read, short forms might be your match, especially Voyagers, which has been described by the judges as “beautifully crafted, a sublime mix of romantic tensions and studies of the cosmos,” filled with gems such as “the brain is the only organ to have named itself.”

 

The winner of the ALCS Educational Writers’ Award is If The World Were 100 People, written by Jackie McCann and illustrated by Aaron Cushley. The book helps children to better understand the world they live in by imagining the world was condensed to a small village of one hundred people and explaining what this global village would look like. Whilst at first glance it may seem to be a simple picture book, it has been described by one of the judges, Imogen Thomas, as “accessible, original and vibrant,” especially when the judges considered the book in more detail where they discovered “that its simplicity was actually the genius behind [the] book.”


Jackie McCann commented on the field of children’s non-fiction saying “[it] has exploded and writers can appeal to a child’s sense of wonder about almost anything.” Within such a vibrant and creative area the other shortlisted books encourage young readers to find out about the plastic crisis and what can be done, think about the role of art in historical social movements, answer their questions about racism and learn about themselves through genetics. ALCS Chief Executive Barbara Hayes said “[t]he five books shortlisted are all fantastic examples of [inspiring curiosity] and it was fascinating to hear about the wide range of topics covered.” With such tough competition Jackie McCann and Aaron Cushley have certainly proven their creativity and passion for encouraging young readers to stay curious. Congratulations to them both!

 

The Ruth Rendell Award prize winners this year, are none other than Radio 1 DJs Greg James and Chris Smith, who were nominated for the prize due to their championing of literacy across the country. This is evident in their work with the National Literacy Trust, as well as their support of Penguin Random House’s Libraries for Primaries campaign. Both initiatives are vital in supporting children’s reading habits and encouraging them to unlock the world of books at an early age. Part of their role also included personal visits to schools across the country to encourage and inspire a passion for reading and writing. Joining Greg and Chris on the shortlist for the prize were brilliant campaigners such as Michael Morpurgo, Sharena Lee Satti, Richard O’Neill, Harry Heape and Ellie Crawshaw-Prince. Now having received the accolade at the Goldsmiths Centre in London, the pair officially join past winners of the Ruth Rendell prize such as Andy McNab, Cressida Cowell and the 2023 joint winners Dapo Adeola and Nigel Lungenmuss-Ward. Congratulations Greg and Chris!

 

This year’s ALCS Awards celebrate excellence in literacy, education and storytelling. From brilliant children’s non-fiction to inspiring literacy campaigns and skilfully crafted short stories, the winners’ works exemplify creativity and dedication to literacy. As we celebrate these authors, we are certain their stories and impact will inspire future generations of writers, educators and storytellers!

 

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