McDonald’s is set to replace the toys which come with its famous Happy Meals with educational books as part of an effort to boost child literacy. The fast food giant will become the UK’s largest children’s book distributor after announcing plans to give away more than 15 million books over the next two years.
The company is teaming up with Dorling Kindersley and WH Smith for the promotion, which started this week.
McDonald’s, which is frequently accused of helping to perpetuate childhood obesity, will be hoping to banish its image with the ‘Happy Readers’ initiative.
The firm’s Happy Meals, which use bright colours and playful characters to sell burgers, chips and chicken nuggets, have been banned in Chile and some US states over claims they are damaging children’s health.
The reading campaign launched this week with a five-week nationwide giveaway, and will continue until the end of next year, by which time a total of 15 million fiction and non-fiction books will have been given out.
The first set of books offered are short non-fiction works by DK, which is known for its lavishly illustrated picture books. One book will be included with each children’s Happy Meal, which traditionally include plastic toys promoting films and TV shows.
McDonald’s will also give away additional vouchers for the books which can be redeemed at WH Smith.
And the DK books will be available to buy in McDonald’s as stand-alone purchases too. The books available are from the publisher’s ‘Amazing World’ series, entitled Oceans, Earth, Stars and Planets, Big Cats, Arctic and Antarctic, and Rainforest.
The giveaway was apparently inspired by research from the National Literary Trust which revealed that just 50 per cent of children say they enjoy reading a lot.
“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,” an NLT spokesman told the Daily Telegraph.
“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.”
The firm launched a pilot scheme last year, and claims that 90 per cent of parents said they wanted to see more such giveaways.