Take one guess who’s set to distribute more children’s books than just about anyone on the planet next month.
Big hint: Think Happy Meals.
McDonald’s, the kingpin of fast food and lightning rod for consumer activist groups, plans to distribute more than 20 million paperback books inside its Happy Meals in the U.S. during the two-week period between Nov. 1 and 14.
Goodbye, Batman toys. Hello, paperback books for kids — featuring McDonald’s Funky Farm Happy Meal characters. “Happy Meals fun for kids can be used to educate and inspire good choices,” says Lisa McComb, a McDonald’s spokeswoman.
For McDonald’s, it’s yet another effort to appease critics who have lambasted its Happy Meals for the food quality, the licensed toys and the kid-targeted marketing. McDonald’s has recently begun to offer more fruit and veggie choices in its meals — including Happy Meals. And last week it even said that soft drinks will ultimately be nixed from the Happy Meal menu.
It’s not the first time McDonald’s has put books into Happy Meals. It’s had at least 15 series of them since 1982. Four years ago, it distributed some American Girl storybooks and back in 1988, it even handed out a version of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.
But this new series of four kids books is hardly comprised of Caldecott Medal winners. Rather, the four books are based on McDonald’s own animated animals, including a goat, ant, dodo bird and, yes, a dinosaur.
The books, whose titles include The Goat Who Ate Everything and Doddi the Dodo Goes to Orlando, will focus on nutrition, imagination and active play, says McComb.
For example, The Goat Who Ate Everything is about a goat who has a big appetite and struggles to eat smart. But when he finally does, he feels great and becomes the playful kid who everyone loves.
But not everyone is impressed. “It’s definitely more of the same,” says Jesse Bragg, spokesman for corporate watchdog group Corporate Accountability. “It’s just a way to get their brand in front of kids in a very subversive way.”
The irony, Bragg says, is that kids who read the books might associate the McDonald’s brand with healthy eating. “But we all know that fast food is a big driver of childhood obesity.”
McComb says McDonald’s will partner with literacy non-profit Reading Is Fundamental to give out an additional 100,000 books. The Nov. 1 roll-out is a tie-in with National Family Literacy Day, she says.
Each book is 24-28 pages. McDonald’s declined to give a dollar value for each book.
Courtesy of USA Today