By Dennis Abrams
Earlier this month, McDonald’s announced that throughout the UK are replacing the toys that have traditionally come with Happy Meals with educational books as part of an effort to help boost literacy.
With this move, the company will become the UK’s largest children’s book distributor with plans to give away more than 15 million books over the next two years. They are teaming up with Dorling Kindersley and WH Smith for the promotion.
The campaign launched the second week in January with a five-week national giveaway, and will continue through the end of 2014. The first set of books being offered are short non-fiction books by DK’s “Amazing World” series, including Oceans, Earth, Stars and Planets, Big Cats, Arctic and Antarctic, and Rainforest. McDonalds will also give away additional vouchers for books which can be redeemed at WH Smith, and the DK books will also be available for purchase at McDonalds without a Happy Meal purchase.
The giveaway is said to have been inspired, at least in part, by a National Literacy Trust report (PDF), which revealed that just 50% of children said that they really enjoyed reading.
An NLT spokesman told the Daily Telegraph, “Our research tells us that there is a very clear link between book ownership and children’s future success in life, so it is very concerning that one in three children in the UK doesn’t own a book, and half of kids don’t really enjoy reading. Initiatives like McDonald’s Happy Readers campaign play an important role in getting more books into the hands of children, and inspiring families to read together as a fun and interactive pastime.”
McDonald’s tested the book program last year and ended up distributing 9 million copies of titles by British author Michael Morpurgo, who wrote “War Horse.”
No plans have been announced for a similar program in the U.S.