I have recently received the following message from the CCFC (Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood) newsletter:
For many of us, Scholastic’s book clubs played an important role in our childhood by providing the opportunity to purchase low-cost, high-quality literature in schools. We remember the excitement of thumbing through the monthly flyers to make our selections and the thrill when our orders arrived.
But something has changed. Scholastic’s book clubs have become a Trojan horse for marketing toys, trinkets, and electronic media-many of which promote popular brands. A review by CCFC of Scholastic’s elementary and middle school book clubs found that one-third of the items for sale are either not books or are books packaged with other items such as jewelry and toys.
CCFC reviewed every item in Scholastic’s 2008 monthly Lucky (for grades 2-3) and Arrow (grades 4-6) book club flyers. Of the items advertised, 14% were not books, including the M&M’s Kart Racing Wii videogame; a remote control car; the American Idol event planner; (“Track this season of American Idol“); the Princess Room Alarm (“A princess needs her privacy!”); a wireless controller for the PS2 gaming system; a make-your-own flip flops kit (“hang out at the pool in style”); and the Monopoly® SpongeBob SquarePants™ Edition computer game. An additional 19% of the items were books that were marketed with additional toys, gadgets, or jewelry. For example, the book Get Rich Quick is sold with a dollar-shaped money clip (“to hold all your new cash!”); the Friends 4 Ever Style Pack consists of a book and two lip gloss rings; and Hannah Montana: Seeing Green comes with a guitar pick bracelet.
The opportunity to sell directly to children in schools is not a right. It’s a privilege – and an extremely profitable one at that. Last year, Scholastic’s book clubs generated $336.7 million in revenue.
It’s bad enough that so many of the books sold by Scholastic are de-facto promotions for media properties like High School Musical and SpongeBob. But there’s no justification for marketing an M&M videogame or lip gloss in elementary schools. Teachers should not be enlisted as sales agents for products that have little or no educational value and compete with books for children’s attention and families’ limited resources. If Scholastic wants to maintain their unique commercial access to young students, they need to do better.
We know that Scholastic listens to your concerns. When 5,000 of you wrote them to demand that they stop promoting the highly sexualized Bratz brand in schools, they discontinued their Bratz line. So please visit http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/621/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=26599 to let Scholastic know it’s time to return to selling books – and only books – through their in-school book clubs.
-The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood