Are Books Toys? McDonald's Thinks So

January 20, 2012

McDonald's is replacing toys in happy meals for books this month. Why are they making the switch, and what’s the general opinion of this move?

According to the UK’s National Literary Trust, McDonald's is replacing Happy Meal toys for books in the UK. What to make of this switch? It's both great marketing for the fast feeder and great for the literacy of the country’s youth. 

The program was created in partnership with HarperCollins and the National Literacy Trust, a nonprofit in the UK. It began last week and is scheduled to run through the beginning of February. It follows research released by the Trust in December about book ownership among kids in the United Kingdom.

Jonathan Douglas, Director of The National Literacy Trust, commented, “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.”

Each book comes with a finger puppet, “to help parents bring the stories to life for their children,” according to the National Literary Trust. So exactly what book is in the happy meal? McDonald's will be handing out nine million copies of author Michael Morpurgo's Mudpuddle Farm series of books. The author is best known for writing the book War Horse, which was adapted into a Broadway play and also recently made into movie by Steven Spielberg.

Most of the response thus far has been positive, with a few exceptions. The UK’s Mail Online quotes Charlie Powell, Campaign Director of the Children’s Food Campaign saying, “At a time when we have a childhood obesity epidemic, this is clearly an inappropriate marketing strategy.”

We know that many parents feel they don’t have the patience or time to think about other options, other than fast feeders, so hey, if it comes with a book rather than a toy or nothing at all, The Lempert Report feels it is a step in the right direction. Now if the quality of food provided to kids was increased, that would be even better.