Time posted an article today saying that in Britain, McDonalds will give away books with Happy Meals.
The National Literacy Trust is behind this. Jonathan Douglas, the director, told the Telegraph, “Initiatives like McDonald’s Happy Readers campaign play an important role in getting more books into the hands of children, and inspiring families to read together as a fun and interactive pastime.” Douglas says that one in three children don’t own a book.
This program will make McDonald’s UK’s largest book distributor.
But Martyn Daniels asks if this is a good thing on his blog, Brave New World. “Does Publishing Have Ketchup on Its Hands?” is his catchy title leading into his questioning why with the obesity rate so high would the publishing industry promote books along with junk food.
He likened this to the regulation of tobacco advertising saying, “We have seen proactive legislation and taxation levies on the advertising of smoking and dangers of tobacco. We have banned tobacco companies cynically endorsing sport. We are now witnessing a similar approach to alcohol abuse, but we still fail to grapple with the soft drink and junk food endorsements of sporting events such as the Olympics.”
The Time article said that Mcdonald’s didn’t have plans to bring this program to the US, but I though you might like to weigh in on the subject.
A while back I received a Berenstain Bears book with my daughter’s Chick-fil-A kids meal. Though I was happy to get a book instead of a junky toy, I can’t say that it inspired our family to read together. But then again, that’s something that is already a part of our nightly ritual. The book went on the shelf with all our other kids books. I think we’ve read it twice. However, we didn’t have a choice in the book we received. This program gives customers the option to choose a book at a local retailer, WH Smith, instead. Having the reader’s ‘buy in’ is huge in getting him or her to sit and listen.
The toy debate has been around a while. My opinion is that, to my knowledge, my family has never purchased a kids meal at a fast food restaurant based on a toy. If anything, it’s more of a hindrance. They’re junky toys. I look for the first chance I get to throw them away.
If fast food restaurants are bent on giving away someting with a meal, then I’m all for something educational. However, if the goal is to get a book in the hands of every child I do wonder if there are better ways.
What do you think about fast food restaurants handing out books with kids meals?