...between promoting reading and marketing.
An article in today's New York Times has a consumer group accusing the venerable Scholastic publishing group of selling trinkets and toys in the guise of its school reading program promotion.
"Scholastic Inc., the children’s publisher of favorites like the Harry Potter, Goosebumps and Clifford series, may be best known for its books, but a consumer watchdog group accuses the company of using its classroom book clubs to push video games, jewelry kits and toy cars.
A page from June 2008 shows books, toys and trinkets.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group based in Boston, said that it had reviewed monthly fliers distributed by Scholastic last year and found that one-third of the items sold in these brochures were either not books or books packaged with other items.
Based on a review of brochures in Scholastic’s Lucky Club for children in second and third grade, and its Arrow Club for fourth through sixth graders, the group said that 14 percent of the items were not books, while an additional 19 percent were books sold with other trinkets like stickers, posters and toys.
Susan Linn, director of the campaign, said she had received complaints from parents who were concerned that their children were being sold toys, games, makeup and other items under the guise of a literary book club that is promoted in classrooms.
"Marketing in schools is a privilege and not a right," Ms. Linn said in an interview. "Scholastic is abusing that privilege."
I've long since tired of those flyers, which come with monthly regularity in M's backpack. The ordering forms that I've ripped up and trashed over the years would probably account for a mere 1% of the paper industry's output, I'm sure.
In the early days, it was just books and the occasional 'flash card' collection, but now is growing into friendship bracelet kits, Barbie tie-ins, Hannah Montana journals, High School musical accessories and Spongebob figurines. Anything in the pursuit of a TV driven kid's attention span. The old favorites still persist, with picture book retellings of Laura Ingalls Wilder's already easily readable and well-crafted prose, simplifications (with movie tie-ins) of the Chronicles of Narnia.
Of course, I prefer to create my own reading crazes from book series well-loved and remembered from childhood. Some degree of marketing and merchandising is always appropriate to generate enthusiasm in kids who are quite accustomed to the overstimulation from TV, video games and Flash-laden websites. But to see that Scholastic (not exactly the most innocent of companies in the 'Buy Baby Buy' push) do it blatantly in their school clubs, is hardly a shocker , more a reflection of the times that we live in.