McDonald’s: UK’s biggest children’s book seller

McDonald’s will briefly become the UK’s biggest retailer of children’s books with a month-long promotion to replace the usual plastic toy in its Happy Meals with a book.

The fast food chain has announced that over the next four weeks it will be giving out nine million Mudpuddle Farm books, written by Michael Morpurgo, after it signed a tie-up with the publisher Harper Collins. (Morpurgo is also the author of the book, War Horse, on which Stephen Spielberg’s new hit movie is based.)

The Telegraph reports that, 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.

Its Happy Meals, which cost about £2.20, have come under fire in the past for encouraging ‘pester power’. Alongside a burger or chicken nuggets, chips and a drink children are given a toy, usually tied in to the latest cinema release.

McDonald’s started to include bags of fruit after accusations from food advocates that the Happy Meals were unhealthy.

Literacy advocates, however, are applauding McDonald’s for giving kids a book instead of a disposable toy, and don’t believe it matters if the 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.”

Morpurgo is something of a hero to the nation’s children. His books are hugely popular and he spends a lot of his time touring schools to encourage a love of reading.  The author is giving all royalties from the promotion to Farms for City children, a charity he set up with his wife in 1974.

He has said: “I’m pleased that nine million children in Britain will be receiving copies of my books during this promotion.”

Source: The Telegraph, The Guardian, Daily Mail

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