Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Would You Like That Super Sized, Dear Reader?

Once again, the Brits are trying something unique with their cuisine. But this time, instead of Scotch Eggs and Toad in the Hole (come on, you can't deny the "strangeness"), they are combining American fast food with....literature.

According to GalleyCat, the Telegraph reported last week that "McDonald’s plans to hand out a staggering 9 million copies of Mudpuddle Farm books by Michael Morpurgo in Happy Meal boxes around the UK" (GalleyCat).

The Telegraph discusses further:
In 2011, sales of children’s books averaged 1.16 million per week – 6.4 million in a four week period – which means that McDonald’s will be handing out considerably more children’s books than are usually sold in the UK in the same period.

A finger puppet, relating to the series of books, will also be included alongside the Happy Meal.

McDonald's said a similar book giveaway in Sweden had proved very popular.

This is the latest attempt by McDonald's to improve its reputation, following the decision to sell only organic milk, print calories on its menu boards, and refurbish all of its outlets.


Literacy campaigners said it did not matter if McDonald's decision was prompted by a desire to improve its image. Eight out of ten all families with young children visit the fast-food company at least once over the course of the year, so there was a strong chance they would end up with a book.

Jonathan Douglas, director of The National Literacy Trust,
said: “Our recent research showed that one in three children in this country don’t own a book, which is extremely concerning as there is a clear link between book ownership and children's future success in life. We are very supportive of McDonald’s decision to give families access to popular books, as its size and scale will be a huge leap towards encouraging more families to read together.”

The McDonald’s Happy Meal book promotion will include six titles from the Mudpuddle Farm range: Mossop’s Last Chance; Albertine, Goose Queen; Pigs Might Fly!; Jigger’s Day Off; Martians at Mudpuddle Farm; Mum’s the Word.

Read the entire article HERE

I'm torn about my feelings toward this. While my immediate reaction to the news was "Awesome! Go literacy!" my secondary reaction was more subdued. How much of this campaign is to truly encourage reading and how much is to manipulate parents into purchasing Happy Meals for their kids with the hopes that he or she will want to read a book that Ronald McDonald "picked out"?

It's hard to say. I'm sure it's a little bit of both. And while McDonald's has taken healthier initiatives of late regarding their "side dishes" and beverages accompanying Happy Meals, I'm still not a proponent of fast food in general. Certainly not for growing children who need to be taught healthy eating habits from day one. Come to think of it, these children should also be being taught to appreciate books from day one. Hmmm. The mind boggles.

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