CCFC to Scholastic: Put the Book Back in "Book Club"

Date of Release: 

Monday, February 9, 2009

February 9, 2009
Contact: Josh Golin (617-896-9369; josh<at>commercialfreechildhood.org)

CCFC to Scholastic: Put the Book Back in "Book Club"

“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 lip gloss.  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://commercialfreechildhood.org/blog/what-scholastic-sells-its-book-clubs

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