Instead of the usual cheap plastic toy, for the next five weeks McDonald’s is offering children in the U.K. books with their Happy Meals. That probably means there are a lot of disappointed British children, but for the faction of nerdy little Britons who love books as much as we do, it’s a banner day under the golden arches. During the promotion, McDonald’s intends to give out one book with every Happy Meal they sell. If that’s true, it will inadvertently make them the largest children’s book distributor in the United Kingdom.
The “Happy Readers” campaign kicked off this weekend, replacing toys for books, and it’s already getting support from the British National Literacy Trust (NLT.) The NLT has found that 30% of children in the U.K. don’t own any books. I tried finding the corresponding statistic for the U.S. but my search came up empty-handed.
Each Happy Meal comes with a non-fiction book by publisher DK Books, and book retailer W.H. Smith is working with McDonald’s to allow customers to redeem a book of their choice. This is the latest move by the fast food giant to make Happy Meals more appealing, if not to children than at least to their parents. They have already started offering healthier food options like apple slices instead of french fries. It seems like the next move is to help children become better readers, and that’s wonderful.
A pilot version of this program last year saw McDonald’s give out 9 million books, and if this round of promotion is a success then it may catch on in other countries. It wouldn’t be the first time a fast food chain has bribed children into reading with food. I have fond childhood memories of Pizza Hut’s Book It! program, which offered kids a free pizza in exchange for logging a certain amount of time reading.
Getting children to read by offering them pizza, cheeseburgers, and french fries (or apple slices) may not be the absolute best way to go about doing it, but anything that gets a child reading is a good thing. This might be my favorite thing McDonald’s has ever done, at least since their Batman Forever collectible mugs.
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