I didn’t think I’d ever have the desire to set foot inside a McDonald’s again but there’s something going on right now that could just change my mind.
For the next six weeks U.K. branches of the fast food chain are giving out Roald Dahl books with their Happy Meals. Yep, it’s James and the Giant Cheeseburger.
The partnership between McDonald’s and the Roald Dahl estate is aimed at getting more kids reading and, given how much kids love Happy Meals (whatever parents think of them), it might just be a success.
What’s more the 14 million specially created books will be filled with extracts from some of Dahl’s most adored stories, making them collector’s items for avid fans. Eight titles have been put together for the Happy Meal promotion, including Roald Dahl’s Magical Mischief, which will include extracts from Matilda and George’s Marvellous Medicine. Another bonus is that they will have no McDonald’s branding on them.
McDonald’s have been working to change the public’s perception of them as an unhealthy food stop for a while now, with healthy menu options, a McBike box for drive-thru cyclists (in the U.S.) and a focus on promoting an active lifestyle.
Abigail Moss, deputy director of the National Literacy Trust, which is backing the campaign, said it was “reaching out on to the high street, where the families are… Many parents will have enjoyed the wonderful world of Roald Dahl when they were young and now they’ll be able to share these iconic stories with their children. The scale of the campaign will reach millions of children, including many who haven’t owned a book before, inspiring them to enjoy reading and improving their life chances.”
Moss continued: “Last year when we partnered with McDonald’s on Enid Blyton, we had some absolutely fantastic letters through — one from a grandmother who said she had never read with her grandchildren, but that now she was sitting in McDonald’s reading Blyton’s The Secret Seven, and it was one of the best days of her life.”
National Literacy Trust research found that one in seven kids in the U.K. don’t own a book of their own. Thinking of my own kids’ bulging bookshelves, I can get on board with the occasional bag of chicken nuggets if it’s going to encourage children to discover the wonderful world of reading.
Some health advocacy groups have criticised the McDonald’s “Happy Readers” initiative, arguing that children shouldn’t be encouraged to eat fast food in order to collect the books created for the campaign.
But the truth is that McDonald’s customers are going to buy Happy Meals for their kids regardless of what initiative they are running. Surely it’s better that a child receives a stimulating book than a cheap piece of plastic?
Since 2013 McDonald’s “Happy Readers” campaign has given away more than 22.8 million books to children and it deserves praise for helping to kick-start a reading habit in so many youngsters.