Teachers to Scholastic: Don’t Use Us to Market Toys, Make-up, and Brands to Children in School

For Immediate Release

Teachers to Scholastic: Don’t Use Us to Market Toys, Make-up, and Brands to Children in School

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - “Stop enlisting teachers to sell toys, make-up, and brands to
students through book clubs.” That’s what more than 1,200 teachers
said in a
letter the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood sent
to Scholastic,
Inc., the world’s largest educational publishing company. CCFC sent the
letter, signed exclusively by teachers, after a review
of Scholastic’s
2008 elementary and middle school Book Club flyers
found that one-third of the items for sale were either not books, like the
M&M Kart Racing Wii videogame, or were books packaged with other products,
such as lip gloss and jewelry.

“Anything that teachers hand out in the classroom carries their
implicit endorsement,” said Dr. Susan Linn, CCFC’s Director.
“Scholastic should not be exploiting teachers’ influence with
students to sell toys and trinkets or to promote media properties, like Hannah Montana and SpongeBob SquarePants, to children in schools.” Signatures were
collected online and at state and local meetings of the National Association
for the Education of Young Children. 

Last February, CCFC forwarded over 5,000 complaints from parents to
Judy Newman, President of Scholastic Book Clubs. In response, she told The New York Times that the company works
with teachers “to make sure that items are O.K. to put out in their
classrooms.” That over 1200 teachers signed on to CCFC’s letter
shows that many believe the proliferation of branded and non-book items
marketed in the Book Clubs are not, in fact, “O.K.” A number of
teachers felt strongly enough to include personal comments highlighting their
dissatisfaction with the commercialization of Scholastic’s offerings.

“I
have noticed this gradual change over the last several years and I have been
concerned about it. I am sometimes embarrassed to send home a particular issue
with too many trashy choices. I feel this reflects on me as a teacher.”
~Amie Buchman, K-1st Grade Teacher, Pierce School,
Brookline, MA

“...[I]n
recent years, I am finding many fewer books that I want to own or read to the
children...commercial stories, growing up too soon topics, and all sorts of
things that aren’t books at all.  So I have made very few purchases
in the past ten years and feel much less enthusiastic about giving [out] the
order forms...”
~Laurie Kleen, Preschool & Kindergarten Teacher, A
Growing Place Montessori School, St. Louis, MO

Although Scholastic’s Book Clubs offer teachers the chance to
build their classroom libraries and students the chance to buy low-cost books,
teachers are looking elsewhere for these opportunities and refusing to distribute
Scholastic’s flyers until they improve their selection:

“I've
ordered quality books from you for years, but stopped handing out the order
forms when I found that my students were primarily buying toys that it seemed
like I approved of!”
~Sarae Pacetta, Pre-K Teacher, Lee
Academy Pilot
School, Dorchester, MA

“I
stopped offering Scholastic Book Clubs 5 years ago because the overall quality
of the books offered had declined and because of the inclusion of Disney and
other brand toys and related books.”
~Beth London, Pre-K Teacher, Poker Hill School, Underhill, VT

“Please
discontinue all non-book items from your book orders, web site, and book
fairs...Until this happens I'm boycotting Scholastic and looking for another
company for book orders.”        

~Larry Burt, 4th Grade Teacher, Roseway Heights
School, Portland, OR

“I
have long been troubled by the commercial nature of your offerings, and for
precisely that reason, have pretty much stopped distributing Scholastic
information to my classes. I loved Scholastic before all of the media
influence, and would happily return to distributing offerings to my class and
ordering myself if you returned to selling quality literature.” 
~Margo Ross, Kindergarten Teacher, Tierra
Pacifica Charter
School, Santa Cruz, CA

“The opportunity to market directly to children in schools is a
privilege, not a right,” Dr. Linn added. “Teachers shouldn’t
be enlisted as sales agents for products like Hannah Montana bracelets.”

CCFC plans to continue to track Scholastic Book club offerings. One of
the more egregious recent findings was the Dairy Queen video game, DQ Tycoon, which appears in Scholastic’s
June 2009 Arrow flyer
.

###

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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