Legendary comic creator helps reading scheme go global

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EXCELSIOR! Comic book living legend Stan Lee, who created superheroes including Spiderman and The Hulk, is backing a new Sheffield project to help children with their reading and writing - which could now go global.

The Stan Lee Excelsior Award, named after his exclamation catchphrase - Latin for ‘even higher’ - is a new city-wide book scheme which aims to get more teenagers reading.

Seventeen secondary schools signed up, including one from Doncaster, with more than 800 teenagers judging and vote for eight shortlisted graphic novels.

The project has received the backing of the great comic book writer himself who hopes the project could spread worldwide.

It’s the brainchild of school librarian and comics fan Paul Register, the Learning Resource Centre Manager at Ecclesfield School in Sheffield.

He got the full backing and support of not only the Sheffield Schools Library Service, but The Stan Lee Foundation.

And Ted Adams, chairman of the Foundation, flew from Washington to attend an awards ceremony at the school announcing the winning graphic novel, as voted for by South Yorkshire children, as Black Butler, by Yana Toboso.

Ted told The Star how Stan Lee’s Foundation is hoping the scheme could become a beacon project for schools to follow back in the USA and worldwide.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Comic book sales are more successful overseas than in America itself. The mixture of graphic novels with literature is a natural combination to open eyes.

“Any language can be placed into the comic bubbles.

“As far as a medium, it is a source or entertainment and education - absolutely it’s a global initiative.”

He also had a special message from Stan Lee which he read out. Ted said: “Many people have come up to me over the years and told me how my comic books got them into reading or made an impact on their literacy.

“That’s always filled me with enormous pride and that’s why I was delighted to offer my support when Paul Register first contacted me and asked if he could use my name in a new book award and reading initiative he was starting up amongst the schools in Sheffield.”

Other special guests included comic author Bryan Talbot, whose graphic novel Grandville: Mon Amour came second. He said: “I’m very proud to think my work is encouraging children to read and write. This is a great idea.”

Beano artist Kev F Sutherland also gave a keynote speech at the ceremony.

It follows a PISA report which revealed UK children’s literacy skills have fallen in relation to other countries and noted boys in UK didn’t have the same habits of reading comics as those of countries doing better.

Paul said: “We are thrilled that Stan has given us his blessing to name this award after him.

“The overall goal of this scheme is to encourage reading amongst the teenagers of Sheffield.

“But it’s also to raise the profile of graphic novels and manga amongst the librarians and teachers of Sheffield’s schools. I’m sure this could spread to South Yorkshire and I’m delighted to think it might go global.

“This story telling medium has been a largely under-used resource within education for many years. The Excelsior Award attempts to highlight some of the books that are out there, just crying out to be put in our school libraries!”