Stan Lee Excelsior Award (Dr Mel Gibson, SLA Weekend Course 2013)


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Dr Mel Gibson – Excelsior! Exploring the impact of the Stan Lee Excelsior Award in Schools. Plenary Session at 2013 SLA Weekend Course in Belfast

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Stan Lee Excelsior Award (Dr Mel Gibson, SLA Weekend Course 2013)

  1. 1. Dr. Mel Gibson and Prof. Kay Sambell, Northumbria University (with kind permission of Paul Register, Award founder)
  2. 2. What is it? • The Stan Lee Excelsior Award is the only nationwide book award for graphic novels and manga where kids aged 11-16 choose the winner by rating each book as they read it. • Eight graphic novels are selected for the shortlist and it now attracts schools and public libraries from all over the UK • The overall goal of this scheme is to encourage reading amongst teenagers. • Its secondary target is to raise the profile of graphic novels and manga amongst school librarians and teachers. • Website at
  3. 3. It is compulsory for me to show this image! Paul Register (award founder and organiser) with the living legend himself, Stan 'The Man' Lee!
  4. 4. • In January 2011, Paul Register 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), 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 project grew considerably. 77 schools took part and returned a phenomenal 2307 Rating Forms. • In 2013, over 130 schools took part (Final figures to be confirmed).
  5. 5. Researching the Award • Kay and I are exploring the impact of the Award, initially via a survey. We will be doing some follow-up interviews with participants. • The initial survey has so far drawn 65 responses. This is itself, is very positive. • Of those 65, 59 described themselves as school librarians. Others were teachers, a Learning Resource Centre Manager and Public Librarians. • All volunteered for the role.
  6. 6. Answer Choices Responses An enthusiast/fan 19.05% (12) Some experience 52.38% (33) Largely unfamiliar with the medium 28.57% (18) Total 63 Before your involvement with the Award, how would you characterize your experience with graphic novels? ‘Knowledge of big titles but little experience of comic book titles’. ‘Had some on shelves and used them with pupils but not read them myself’. ‘Basic knowledge. We have a small collection here and wanted to improve this’.
  7. 7. Did you work with graphic novels in your setting before this Award was launched? How? • This question asked for respondents to make comments. The vast majority had collections and wanted to develop them further, typically in response to popularity amongst students. • Some had bought in materials for work with reluctant readers, others with boys specifically in mind, others again with very able readers to add variation and stretch them. • Activities also included author/artist visits, manga and comic clubs, using titles for sessions in general book clubs and with a drawing club.
  8. 8. What do you feel you personally got out of being involved with the Award? • The vast majority cited getting to know more about the medium as a personal benefit. ‘Though I haven't really ever been into reading graphic novels, I have been enjoying getting to grips with the shortlisted titles, sharing them with pupils and learning from their knowledge and enthusiasm, and have broadened my reading tastes in the process!’ • Some of what was said shows ways of working with the Award; ‘We had a special after school event that we advertised in the school bulletin - graphic novel fans came to see what the short listed novels were, have a look at them and have a group discussion about their favourite graphic novels. I felt that this was a fantastic way for kids to meet one another - some students made very fast friends on the day, from very different backgrounds and year groups, which was so nice to see. We still have some of the group coming in together on a regular basis to look at our newest GN additions and draw their own novels’.
  9. 9. • Others talked about reaching a different group of students ‘I was able to make contact with students who didn't normally use the library very much, and develop good working relationships. We have now developed a whole new scheme of work which I will deliver again next year. It was very positive and good fun!’ • Another group of comments focused on other librarians ‘A sense of community. It's good to know there are Librarians out there who are as enthusiastic, if not more so, than me about the medium. Sometimes comics get a frosty response from teaching colleagues who feel they're not 'real' literature, and it's nice to know I'm not alone in seeing their merit’.
  10. 10. Is there anything that you found out from participating which has resulted in a change in your practice, such as discovering new titles or a new medium? • ‘It has made me think more about how we structure our reading clubs, and how important graphic novels are to students' literacy and enjoyment of books’ • ‘The most popular one was the Sweeney Todd which surprised me - I personally found it a bit wordy but now I know the students like gns that are quite demanding’ • ‘I noticed from the voting slips that a particular core of students were voting, so I will be able to target these students (who are not necessarily enthusiastic library users / readers in the main) for next year's award. Possibly more structured with a reading / discussion group or stock choosing group.’ • ‘I have used the Panzenhaur title to promote history. Looking forwards to the rest- staff were also enthused’
  11. 11. Answer Choices Responses Encourage boys to use the library 56.86% 29 Encourage girls to use the library 27.45% 14 Act as a catalyst to encourage students to discuss reading 60.78% 31 Encourage 'reluctant readers' 76.47% 39 Act as a stimulus for the discussion of students' out of school reading and interests 47.06% 24 What do you feel the impact of the Award was regarding your students? Did it, for instance,
  12. 12. • In some cases the Award acted as a support for pre-existing policies, or consolidated a school’s approach. • There were a few surprises, however! ‘We discovered that one of our students has his own comic company and that other boys are also involved. We can now promote this in school.’
  13. 13. Answer Choices Responses all students in the age range 34.62% 18 comic fans 48.08% 25 boys 50% 26 girls 34.62% 18 keen library users 55.77% 29 reluctant library users 34.62% 18 Who rated the graphic novels?
  14. 14. Answer Choices Responses Raised the profile of the library in the school 25% 12 Raised the profile of reading for pleasure in the school 27.08% 13 Raised the profile of graphic novels in the school 87.50% 42 Got different students involved in the library 64.58% 31 Got different staff involved in the library 14.58% 7 It had a negative impact 2.08% 1 (in the final case a member of teaching staff disapproved of the choices and would not promote) Do you feel that there was any wider impact?
  15. 15. Answer Choices Responses Generated other popular culture themed displays 16% 4 Visited by manga and comic creators 24% 6 Created a graphic novel or manga reading group 56.00% 14 Displayed student work on comics or manga 40% 10 Had an impact upon the work of specific subject areas (such as art) 36% 9 Were there any wider activities generated by the Award?
  16. 16. Constraints upon making the Award a success in school • Time, funding and additional work needed with some teachers were all mentioned. • However, there were notable successes in changing views using the Award; ‘Encouraged English teachers about the medium. older ones had been definitely against them in years past as not being worthy of study. Coaxed them slowly into looking at them as an art form and the arrival of a younger teacher with enthusiasm helped change attitudes. She had a graphic artist friend who came and did a workshop and some super work on English set texts came out of it. Once the teachers were on board, it happened’
  17. 17. Key Findings • The Award consolidated pre-existing work on the medium in some schools and introduced collections and related activities in others. • The vast majority of participants were keen to work with the Award again. • The Award helped to break down preconceptions about the medium. • It attracted new readers into the library and rose the profile of it within the school. • It offered opportunities to network with other schools and libraries, as well as comic creators and specialist suppliers. • It acted as a stimulus to creative work by students. • It fostered cross-curricular working across school.
  18. 18. • The Award attracted students of all ages, with there being a large number of young women participating as well as young men. • It was a source of pride for comics fans to see their medium celebrated.