Phoebe Dent considers McDonald’s new initiative to place books inside Happy Meals.
On hearing the news that McDonald’s are to be giving away Roald Dahl books with some of its meals at first shocked me. The typical freebie that you would expect from a fast-food chain would be a toy, so why the turn to books?
The partnership of the Royal Literacy Fund with McDonald’s for this scheme is an attempt to change the statistic that only 15 per cent of children own a book. This may highlight the dwindling popularity of books amongst children, or instead could indicate that books are increasingly inaccessible to this younger generation. If the latter is the case, the concept of Dahl’s popular children’s stories being made available to consumers of this distinctly well known brand seems like a good idea.
Nevertheless, despite placing the book right in front of children, there is no guarantee that they will want to read it, enjoy it if they do or wish to carry on reading afterwards. Some may argue that books are already readily available to children in schools and public libraries, both of which actively promote and encourage reading to children from a young age. The closure of several libraries around the country, however, suggests this valuable resource is not being fully utilised, questioning how successful this somewhat idealist scheme can be. It may be, however, that books are simply just not as cool as they once were, severely limiting the success of the programme.
If this type of introduction works for some, then it is ultimately a positive scheme.
If children already have a preconception about disliking reading or a preference for other activities, then I don’t know how much a free book with chicken nuggets and chips can do. Reading should be fun and learning to enjoy reading should, in itself, be an enjoyable process. Somehow a McDonald’s restaurant doesn’t seem like the most relaxed or comfortable place to settle down with a good book.
Moreover, McDonald’s is primarily concerned with making money, rather than promoting education, literacy or any other cause. Whilst the complementary Roald Dahl books may have an educational benefit, it is uncertain whether McDonald’s are motivated by money or morals.
On the other hand, maybe this doesn’t matter. Maybe the introduction of and education through books should be as widespread as possible, with reading and books seen as commonplace and easily accessible. Whilst this may not actively engage all children, if this type of introduction works for some, then it is ultimately a positive scheme.