What if you walked into a McDonalds and instead of hearing “do you want fries with that,” you heard “would you like a book, too?”
McDonalds has yet to get into the book-selling business (though who knows if it might? Walgreen’s in the US is starting to sell sushi). But for the next month in Britain, toys in Happy Meals will be replaced with books. Instead of little plastic chipmunks or ponies, children will receive, among other titles, copies of Michael Mopurgo‘s Last Chance and Martians at Mudpuddle Farm along with a finger puppet. The books will also be for sale at McDonalds, no Happy Meal purchase required.
The fast-food giant has teamed up with publisher Harper Collins to give away nine million books. Both the National Literacy Trust and Booktrust, a government-backed organization that gives away five million books a year to babies and children, support McDonalds’ “books instead of toys” effort. The National Literary Trust’s director, Jonathan Douglas, has indeed said that he is “very supportive of McDonald’s decision to give families access to popular books.”
The grand-scale giveaway will make McDonalds the biggest purveyor of children’s books in the UK, notes Britain’s Daily Telegraph. A similar book giveaway in Sweden has proved very popular and, notes The Week, it is possible that it could come to the US. Given that some places in the US (such as Santa Clara County in California) have banned giving away toys with Happy Meals, the possibility of McDonalds offering free books with fast food could spark some interesting discussions. The Week sums up some responses from nutritionists and others:
Linking unhealthy food and education is “not the most healthful choice,” dietitian Stacia Helfand tells the Daily News. McDonald’s would “enrich children’s lives” more by serving healthier food. Yeah, this downright “cynical” campaign “appears to be designed to make fast food more attractive to children,” Charlie Powell at the Children’s Food Campaign tells Britain’s Daily Mail. Oh please, says Raphael Brion at Eater. You’re never going to win over kids by replacing “sweet plastic trinkets” with “boring” old books. And even if kids do bite, says The Daily What, “I’ll take fat and well-read over skinny and illiterate any day.”
Only 1 in 3 children in Britain own a book, says the Guardian. What might happen if books are paired with unhealthy food? Is it better to have books with fries rather than no books at a ll (or only fries)? What price is literacy?
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