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 and today the Excelsior Award attracts over 200 schools from all over the UK and beyond!
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 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 schools will encourage students to read the shortlisted books and then fill out the very straightforward Rating Form. This allows the student to rate and review the book by giving it marks out of five, according to Story, Artwork, Characters and Dialogue, over a 9-10 week period. The winning titles are 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), Robert Deas (Troy Trailblazer, Manga Shakespeare) 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 JABBICA (Judge A Book By Its Cover Award) for the book with the best cover (which is voted for solely by the librarians and teachers) and the True Believers Awards for the schools that return the most Rating Forms. 2019 saw the introduction of the 'Nuff Said Award, an award for the Best School Library Display.
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 age-appropriate and have to have been published in the previous calendar year. A longlist of quality titles published in 2020 is already being compiled with the 2021 award in mind. A full set of any of the shortlisted books for 2021 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 stock. There is an administration fee for taking part in the Excelsior Award of £25. All you'll need after that is enthusiastic kids, an enthusiastic school librarian (or teacher) and at least one set of the shortlisted books. 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 2021 - please use the Contact Us page on this site. Official registration will open in November 2020 and next year's shortlist will be unveiled in mid-December.
Thanks for reading!
Paul Register (Award Organiser and Founder)