Cressida Cowell has won the coveted Ruth Rendell Award 2017 for her “tireless championing of literacy throughout the UK”.
The children’s author and illustrator was presented with the award on Tuesday evening (5th December) by John Glen MP (parliamentary under-secretary, for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) and John Whittingdale MP at the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group Winter Reception in the House of Commons.
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.
According to the award organisers, over the last year Cowell has “travelled the length and breadth of the UK to deliver reading for enjoyment and creative writing events and workshops to 15,000 school children” as well as acting as an ambassador for a “wealth of literacy campaigns” on behalf of charities and organisations including the National Literacy Trust, BookTrust, the Reading Agency, World Book Day and the Premier League. They also praised her judging of creative writing and drawing competitions for children, including Blue Peter’s Design a Dragon for the Kew Garden Pagoda competition and various book awards such as the Costa Book Award, the Wicked Young Writer Awards and the Carmelite Prize
In May, the How to Train Your Dragon author won the prestigious Hay Festival Medal for Fiction, becoming the first children’s writer to pick up the prize in the award’s history.
On receiving the award, she emphasised how advocacy for literacy is “still very badly needed” with one in three children leaving Primary School lacking the ability to read well. She has also lent her support to the NLT’s ‘Christmas Stories’ campaign which follows research showing one in eight disadvantaged children do not own a book.
Cressida Cowell and John Glen MP
“I’m deeply touched and honoured to be the recipient of this year’s Ruth Rendell Award,” Cowell said. “I do feel, though, that I should be passing it back to the National Literacy Trust, whose unstinting work on behalf of children is so crucial.
“I’m part of a community of authors, librarians, teachers, booksellers and literacy organisations whose advocacy is still very badly needed: one in eight disadvantaged children still do not own a book, and one in three children leave primary school lacking the ability to read well.”
Cowell described her “first role as a children’s book writer is to get as many children as possible reading for pleasure, in the same way that I read for the joy of it when I was a child”.
She added: “Books have a unique capacity for awakening empathy and creative thinking, and reading for pleasure has a significant, measurable impact on academic achievement, happiness and earning potential.”
Jonathan Douglas, director of the NLT, said: “Cressida lives and breathes her faith in the transformative power of books, making it both her personal and professional mission to change children’s lives through literacy. Not only have Cressida’s wonderfully written and illustrated books inspired millions of children to fall in love with reading, but her workshops and events are legendary for inspiring children to start writing stories of their own.”
He added: “Cressida’s wonderful impact on children’s literacy in the UK cannot be underestimated.”
Barbara Hayes, deputy chief executive of ALCS, said that the prize-winner was a “fitting tribute” to Rendell who was “many years an officer of the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group, and a great advocate for writers and literacy”.
Andy McNab won the first Ruth Rendell award last year, it was launched to to celebrate writers helping to raise literacy levels in the UK.
Cowell’s latest book, The Wizard of Once, was published by Hodder Children's Books on 17th September.