The CILIP Carnegie Medal: is it time for a discussion about splitting the medal?

The short-list for the 81st CILIP Carnegie Medal was announced yesterday and it started up the discussion about splitting the Medal into a YA and younger fiction award due to a number of YA titles containing unsuitable content for younger readers.

I set up a 24 hour poll on Twitter to gauge how people feel about the idea of splitting the medal.

I must admit that in past discussions with friends and colleagues the majority of people I have spoken to have favoured the one medal for all approach as it is currently run. The results of the poll surprised me, I honestly expected them to be more evenly matched.

You can see the results below, if you click on the tweet you can read the entire, fascinating conversation that it spawned.

One of the major successes of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards has been the Shadowing Scheme allowing thousands of students in schools across the country and the world to follow the judging process, read along with the judges and have the opportunity to speak to members of the judging panel about the judging process. This is one of the positive extras that the Medals offer; but when younger readers are excluded due to the mature content of many of the short-listed titles it starts becoming of limited value to primary schools and the lower years of senior school.

The Shadowing Scheme is not the main purpose of the awards nor is it to recognise an ideal book for all readers. The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book written in English for children and young people. This most outstanding book is chosen through a rigorous judging process and I do not want that to change.

However the strength of feeling engendered by the question among librarians, authors, publishers and other interested parties plus the growing ease of identifying YA books and other children’s books may make splitting the award less onerous than it may have been in the past.

Speaking personally, I am, at present, in favour of the one award for all but I am not against participating in a discussion about the future of the awards and recognising outstanding works for young people. Are new medals required to recognise age-specific books for young readers or will the Carnegie (and possibly the Kate Greenaway) survive in multiple incarnations?

This decision is, fortunately, not one that I can make, the only people able to do that are CILIP and the CKG Working Party who administer the medals.

One of the strengths of the Awards is that the decision-makers do listen to outside voices, and if the suggestions made have merit then changes are effected to make them more inclusive, relevant and open.

As I stated in my initial tweet, the poll was informal, but the message it sends is that perhaps it is time to revisit to conversation about splitting the medals, as the voices of dissent are only going to get louder.

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