CCFC to Scholastic: Put the Book Back in “Book Club”

For Immediate Release

CCFC to Scholastic: Put the Book Back in “Book Club”

WASHINGTON - “Put the book back in book club!”  That’s the
message the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is sending to
Scholastic, Inc.  A review by
CCFC of Scholastic’s elementary and middle school book clubs flyers
found
that one-third of the items for sale are either not books or are books packaged
with other items such as jewelry, toys or makeup.  CCFC
has launched a letter-writing campaign
urging Scholastic to stop using its
school-based book clubs to sell toys, video games, lip gloss, jewelry and other
non-book items to young students.

“The opportunity to sell directly to children in schools is a
privilege, not a right,” said CCFC’s director, Dr. Susan Linn. “Schools grant Scholastic unique
commercial access to children because of its reputation as an educational
publisher.  But Scholastic is abusing that privilege by flooding classrooms
across the country with ads for toys, trinkets, and electronic media with
little or no educational value.”   

CCFC reviewed every item in Scholastic’s 2008 monthly flyers for
two book clubs, Lucky (grades 2-3) and  Arrow (grades 4-6).  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 sold
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. 

“It’s bad enough that so many of the books sold in
Scholastic book clubs are de-facto promotions for media properties like High School Musical and SpongeBob SquarePants,” said Dr.
Linn. “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 commercialized merchandise that actually compete
with books for children’s attention and their families’ limited
resources.

By Scholastic’s own estimate, over three-quarters of all
elementary school teachers participate in its school-based book clubs by
distributing and collecting flyers/order forms from their students.  In
the fiscal year 2008, Scholastic’s book clubs generated $336.7 million in
revenue.  In all, Scholastic’s in-school sales account for
approximately one-third of the company’s revenue. 

CCFC, which led a successful campaign to get Scholastic to stop
promoting the highly sexualized Bratz brand in schools, has received more
complaints about Scholastic’s in-school marketing than any other
company.  In 2006, in response to complaints about commercialism in
Scholastic Book Fairs, CCFC created a Guide to Commercial-Free Book Fairs,
which is distributed for free on its website and has been used by schools around
the country. Many parents have fond memories of ordering books from the company
as children and are dismayed by the current offerings.

“Scholastic seems more interested in turning my kids on to buying
than on to reading,” said CCFC member Leslie Jones of Charlottesville, Virginia. 
“I have a hard time finding real literature among the toys and
commercialized junk.  I am more than willing to buy from Scholastic, but
only if it gets serious about the leadership role it should be playing in our
schools and with children.”

A complete list of the non-book items and products sold with books can
be found at http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/actions/scholasticdata.html

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The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration among organizations and individuals who care about children. CCFC is a project of Third Sector New England (www.tsne.org).

 

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