Sarah Ford | November 7, 2013

McDonald’s to Give Away 20 Million Books in its Happy Meals Starting Friday

By KJ DELL’ANTONIA

RIF partners with McDonald'sStarting on Friday, McDonald’s plans to give away 20 million books in its Happy Meals over a two-week period, while giving another 100,000 books to children nationwide through a partnership with the nonprofit organization Reading Is Fundamental, commonly known as RIF. McDonald’s would prefer that we focus on the positives of its campaign: RIF’s website notes that two-thirds of children living in poverty have no books at home, and 80 percent of preschool and after-school programs serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for their children.

The distribution of 20,100,000 books (that’s more than the Hunger Games trilogy sold in print in 2012, Advertising Age notes) will surely improve those numbers slightly, at least in the sense that some of those households and classrooms will now have one or two books written in committee at a marketing agency, offering not just reading material, but a brand impression every time a child sees or reads them.

I see I didn’t do a very good job of focusing on the positives of this campaign in that last paragraph.

And yet, there are positives. I spoke to Carol Rasco, the president and chief executive of RlF, and asked — with childhood obesity, and literacy and education differences included among the gaps between the haves and have-nots in this country, why would an organization dedicated to helping children read more partner with a company that has, arguably, a fiduciary duty to persuade them to eat more?

“We need to reach families where they are,” she told me. “We feel we need to look at as many angles as possible to reach children. We need to find new ways to influence parents.” But why McDonald’s?

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Source: The New York Times

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