What's It All About?
In January 2011, I organised and ran a city-wide book award project called The Stan Lee Excelsior Award. Initially intended as a graphic novel and manga award just for schools in Sheffield (to complement the long-running Sheffield Children's Book Award), word of this unique project quickly spread and several other schools from across the UK asked if they could take part too. 17 schools eventually participated and got hundreds of children involved in the 'Reading & Rating' process. 842 Rating Forms were completed and returned. In 2012, the popularity of this project exploded on a national level. 77 schools took part and returned a phenomenal 2307 Rating Forms. This equates to each shortlisted book being read at least 250 times by the UK's school children! Since then, these figures have more than doubled!
Purpose and Function
The overall goal of this scheme is to encourage reading for pleasure amongst children and teenagers. However, its secondary target is to raise the profile of graphic novels and manga amongst school librarians and teachers. This storytelling medium has been a largely underused resource within education for many years. The Excelsior Award Junior attempts to highlight some of the amazing books that are published every year, just crying out to be put in our school libraries! The basic premise is that all the participating secondary schools will gather together a group of student readers who will use a special and straightforward Rating Form to rate and review each of the eight books on the shortlist (according to Story, Artwork, Characters and Dialogue) over a 9-10 week period. This process will result in the shortlist being narrowed down to one book, with the winning book being announced at a special awards ceremony in June. Previous speakers and special guests at our awards ceremony have included Kev F. Sutherland (noted Beano artist and comedian), Bryan Talbot (Grandville, The Tale of One Bad Rat, Alice in Sunderland), Ben Haggarty (Mezolith), Andy Diggle (Daredevil, Thunderbolts, The Losers, 2000AD), Ian Churchill (Marineman, Deadpool, Cable, Supergirl), David Lloyd (V For Vendetta, Kickback, Aces Weekly), Emma Vieceli (Vampire Academy, Dragon Heir, Manga Shakespeare), Lizzie Payton (The Phoenix), John Ferguson (Saltire) and Theodore Adams III (Chairman of the Stan Lee Foundation) has also flown over from Washington DC to speak to the students and lend his support! We also have the True Believers Awards for the schools that return the most Rating Forms.
The books are chosen for their quality, popularity and variety of genre and artistic styles. The other main criteria for inclusion on the shortlist is that the titles have to be suitable for 8-11 year olds and have to have been published in the previous calendar year. A longlist of quality titles published in 2016 is already being compiled with the 2017 award in mind. A full set of the shortlisted books for 2017 will cost no more than £45 from our recommended supplier. That's the limit we work to. Most schools should be able to fund this themselves from their own budgets and the books will certainly enhance any library or classroom stock. There is an administration fee for taking part in the Excelsior Award Junior of £15.00. All you'll need after that is enthusiastic kids, an enthusiastic school librarian or teacher and at least one set of the five books on the shortlist. I have no doubt that the shortlisted books will lead to discussions, debates and enjoyment across the UK's schools and across gender, race, reading ability and social class. I think this is a hugely worthwhile project and I hope you can share my enthusiasm and my belief that encouraging 'reading for pleasure' in any form can only be beneficial to a child's development and education. If you would like to get your school involved in 2017 - please use the Contact Us page on this site. Official registration will open in November 2016 and next year's shortlist will be unveiled in mid-December.Thanks for reading!
Paul Register (Award Organiser and Founder)