"Scholastic Inc., the children’s publisher of favorites like the Harry Potter, Goosebumps and Clifford series, may be best known for its books, but a consumer watchdog group accuses the company of using its classroom book clubs to push video games, jewelry kits and toy cars....
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group based in Boston, said that it had reviewed monthly fliers distributed by Scholastic last year and found that one-third of the items sold in these brochures were either not books or books packaged with other items."
"In response to the campaign’s recent complaints, Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs, said she stood by every product in the book club fliers. Many of the items identified by the campaign, she said, were books sold with small items like stickers to help engage children who 'may not be traditional readers.'
She added that the proportion of video game and other toy sales was overshadowed by book sales.
But Ms. Linn said that selling books with stickers, posters or other trinkets sent the wrong message to children about reading.
'The message that children get when books are marketed with other items is that a book in and of itself isn’t enough,' Ms. Linn said. 'And what it does is encourage children to choose books based not on the content but on what they get with it.'”
Read the full article here.
I remember the Scholastic Book Club with quite a bit of fondness. It was always an exciting day when the fliers were passed out at school. Finding a stack of books on your desk after recess a few weeks later was akin to Christmas. I remember we often had the option to get posters, and occasionally there would be trinkets (I seem to recall getting friendship bracelets, which were all the rage at the time) or toys related to a book, but most of the offerings were books.
From the two images provided with the article, it looks as though there are quite a few more non-book items offered than there were when I was in school. My mother and I both loved the program, but times have certainly changed since I was part of the Scholastic Book Club's target audience in the 1990's.
What do you think? Is Scholastic abusing the privilege of marketing to schoolchildren? Or are they reaching out to reluctant readers? Does this kind of marketing really promote literacy or does it just reinforce the "I want that!" mentality? I'd love to have parents weigh in on this, especially if your child's school participates in the book club.