The Burt Award for African Literature, which ran from 2010 to 2018, was a literary prize that recognized excellence in young adult fiction from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya. Sponsored by CODE and made possible by the generosity of the late William Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation, the Award addressed an ongoing shortage of relevant, quality books for young people in Africa, while at the same time promoting a love of reading and learning.
The Award consisted of up to three cash prizes totaling $21,000 CAD for winning authors and a publishing contract for winning publishers. The award for the publishers included a guaranteed book purchase and distribution programme ensuring that winning titles were distributed to CODE-supported schools and libraries throughout these countries. Winning titles were eligible for international publication as eBooks.
The Burt Award for African Literature was supported in part by IBBY Canada which nominated members as jurors in the Award process. IBBY’s role also included workshop facilitation for emerging and experienced writers, editors and publishers of youth fiction in Africa.
The Burt Award for African Literature was administered in Ghana by the Ghana Book Trust (GBT). In the years that it ran, five thousand copies each of 22 titles were published some of which went into second and third print. These books were donated to school and community libraries all over Ghana.
Objectives of the Award
- To recognize excellence in young adult fiction.
- To support and motivate the development of supplementary reading materials for a critical stage of learning – the transition period between mother tongue and English medium instruction.
- To strengthen the English language skills of youth and help foster enthusiasm and love for reading.
- To stimulate and support the Ghanaian publishing industry and the development of Ghanaian literature.
- To increase the stock of English readers in established school libraries and community libraries.
Process to Select the Winning Titles:
Manuscripts were evaluated and judged on an individual basis. Each year there was a week-long deliberation process to determine winning submissions.
Six professionals were involved in judging submissions. The jury was made up of five Ghanaians and one Canadian. The jury members were carefully selected on the basis of their knowledge and expertise in the areas of youth literature, linguistics, publishing and writing.
The Canadian jury member was selected by IBBY Canada to join the Ghanaian Burt Award jury. In addition to judging manuscripts, the Canadian jury member supported writers and editors in Ghana by co-facilitating workshops for writers and editors to help them focus on the key considerations and skills in writing specifically for youth.
Prizes and Guaranteed Purchase of Titles
Writers won monetary awards of CAD$9,000 for the first prize, CAD$7,000 for the second prize and CAD$5,000 for the third prize. Publishers received a guaranteed purchase of 3,000 copies of each title which was distributed to schools and libraries in respective countries. Publishers printed an additional 2,000 copies to market and sell commercially. The publishers also had the option of reprinting the winning titles if there was a further demand for them.
Distribution of Books to Schools and Community Libraries
To make the books accessible to readers, the Ghana Book Trust distributed the titles to schools and community libraries throughout the country. In addition, GBT facilitated the use of these materials in schools and the greater community through activities such as Authors’ Speaking Events, essay writing contests and radio dramatizations of the titles.
Writers’ and Editors’ Workshops
To support the production of excellent literature for the youth, the Burt Award helped to develop writers’ skills in Ghana by providing workshops for aspiring and emerging writers. The workshops, held for writers,were designed to address the need to develop skills in producing fiction specifically for youth. The Editors’ workshops were conducted to encourage editors to focus on areas that would eventually produce well considered books.