February 8, 2016
Happy Meals with a side of literacy
by Kait Howard
First apple slices—and now reading material? McDonald’s announcement that they’ll temporarily be replacing the fun plastic toys included in Happy Meals with—ugh—children’s books has us wondering about the viability of fast food chains in general.
Los Angeles Times’s Carolyn Kellogg reports that, through February 15, people ordering Happy Meals will receive one of four “petite paperbacks,” including the classic Paddington by Michael Bond and three other titles that are Valentine’s Day-themed.
As part of their larger initiative to increase early literacy, McDonald’s has partnered with HarperCollins and the organization Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) to get specially miniaturized, 4½ -by- 5½-inch versions of the books into the hands of children who might be used to getting TV or movie-themed toys with their McNuggets. According to Marta Bausells at The Guardian, McDonald’s USA will have distributed “50 million books to children through sales and donations” by the end of the year, including a new “donation of 100,000 books to RIF.”
At Paris Review Daily, Dan Piepenbring bemoaned the potential backlash when children express “outrage at the sight of a book where a toy should rightfully be, beginning, in these malleable minds, an inexorable and probably lifelong association between books and frustration.”
More worrisome might be the proximity of the reading material to greasy foodstuffs, which one sees smearing the books’ tiny pages beyond legibility.
Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.