Hey Scholastic: Don’t Sell Our Kids Product Tie-In Dreck

Here’s a campaign it’s easy to get behind, “Tell Scholastic: Put the Book Back in Book Clubs.”

It’s sponsored by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood http://www.commercialexploitation.org/ , which noticed that a whole lot of the items for sale through those little Scholastic book club flyers were either NOT books, or were books that come with little doodads like jewelry or toys.  Let’s call them “Happy Meal” books.

Scholastic enjoys a very privileged position in childhood in that it is allowed to advertise in the schools, via those flyers. You don’t see Toys R Us handing out catalogs during reading workshop, and yet the two companies are selling a lot of the same stuff.  Scholastic’s “book club” items include the M&M’s Kart Racing Wii video game, a Princess Room Alarm, a Monopoly SpongeBob SquarePants computer game and that great educational tool: Lip gloss.

This is not to mention a Hannah Montana bracelet.

Scholastic should be flush with the profits from Harry Potter, for God’s sake. Using the schools to sell our kids on dreck like an M&M Wii game is like selling pina coladas in the cafeteria instead of milk.

Although I guess if schools did that, they might have a lot more parent volunteers at lunch.

Here’s the campaign’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Campaign-for-a-Commercial-Free-Childhood/43207060421

— Lenore

35 Responses

  1. I noticed something similar with the boy scout magazine. had my son in the cub scouts for a while but took him out after a while when I saw that the kids were drilled into well behaved citizens – like they do in public schools – and also that there were advertisements for video games in the magazine Boy’s Life.

    How wrong can you get it – video games in a boy scout magazine??

  2. I might rethink homeschooling if I could go to the school at lunchtime for a margarita. (My lame attempt at humor brought to you by my inability to process the idea that Scholastic has become so wretched.)

  3. I noticed that, too, about the Scholastic Flyers. I refuse to order from them and told my kids I would go to Barnes & Noble with my membership card and get them whatever books they want. My 8yo looks over those flyers every time and wants the books that come with “prizes”. Not because she likes or wants the books but because she wants whatever comes with it. My 6yo just wants the video games and toys.
    And then there are the $5 posters. WTH! My 8yo was so devastated that I refused to give her $5 to buy a stupid poster at the book fair because all her friends were allowed to do it. She even tried to break open her piggy bank to get the money.
    I remember when I was a kid the posters came free when you ordered X amount of books. I still have some of those silly posters and gave them to my girls.

  4. OMG. Don’t even get me started on that. My daughter brings those flyers home and I start ranting.

    And yes; my 8-year-old wants the video games and the toys too. But she knows I’ll say no. And she’s OK with that.

    But it still drives me crazy

  5. I’m in Australia and we too have the scholastic flyers. With all the same junk. I still buy things from there, because supposedly some of the profits go to the school, but insist on books only despite the pleas for the other stuff.

  6. This is the exact reason why I began selling for Barefoot Books (http://JanetGreenley.MyBarefootBooks.com). I used to *love* ordering through Scholastic as a child. I’d bet 99% of my childhood book library was from them. I cringe now at the commercialization of the Scholastic catalogs. My goal is to get as many schools here in Pittsburgh, PA to switch to Barefoot Books. SO much better for the kiddos (and environment) and NO COMMERCIALIZATION! Woo hoo! 😉

  7. Hmmm… Pina coladas in the cafeterias. Are you sure that’s a BAD idea?😉

  8. When I was a kid I used to order scholastic books for the free posters, but they were of animals, not pop stars or movies.

    I’ve given up on scholastic book clubs as well– too much junk and not enough substance.

  9. Let’s go back to why schools allow Scholastic to be there in the first place — schools get a percentage of sales, either through free books for the classrooms, or straight $$ from the Book Fairs. And why is this exciting to schools? Because many of them are woefully underfunded. For schools that need money, selling a pencil or a poster is as good as selling a paperback copy of The Lightning Thief. Sad, but true. My school library isn’t strapped for funds, so we have the luxury of saying NO to Scholastic. Most public schools aren’t so lucky.

  10. Believe me, Scholastic doesn’t care. I was in a Scholastic online focus community for a year, and every mom said the same thing — “Quit selling crap, and stick to BOOKS.” Over and over and over the thread came up, and Scholastic really never said anything other than “thank you for your thoughts.”

    My son knew not to ever ask for anything other than a book from the flyers, and when he did want a book I order it from Amazon. The schools get such a small fraction of the proceeds anyway.

  11. Glad to know I’m not alone. I’m a big fan of having books that the kids can read around the house, but I’m fed up with all the junk that comes with what Scholastic is trying to sell. My kids know better than to even ask for any book with a trinket now from the flyers. My daughter begged for money for the book fair at school and when I asked what she wanted, not a single thing was a book. The school probably would have made out better going to the dollar store and picking up a bunch of junk to sell to the kids.

  12. I’ve helped at my son’s school book fair the past two years. Last year kids were buying a ton of toys but this year the librarian refused to put the toys on the tables. We’re a Title 1 school and could certainly use the funds (the toys bring in more money) but she says it’s just not worth it to send the wrong message to our students. Yeah!

  13. The only commercials my kids see are the advertisements that you sometimes can’t skip at the beginning of DVDs… AND the Scholastic flyers! Thanks for making me aware there was a Facebook group – I’ve joined.

  14. I am sick of the junk in the flyers too. Most of the time I take the flyers and put them in the recycle pile.

    What my school used to do that annoyed me before some of the parents complained was that they were having the lunch menu’s come wrapped in movie flyers.

    Some of the movies were PG-13 and going to the K-2 school.

  15. Even if you manage to get actual books out of Scholastic, they are of extremely poor quality, especially the paperbacks. At least half to 2/3 of the books I have allowed the kids to get from Scholastic have plain fallen apart.

    So now those flyers go right in the recycling bin. If they want a book, I take them to the local library. All the books you want, free. If they HAVE to own a book, the local bookstore gets my money.

  16. I inquired at school as to why the only flyers from Scholastic that my 11 yo son was bringing home were loaded with video games and toys. Apparently teachers are the ones (at least at our school) that choose which sets of flyers from Scholastic they want to receive. It is a crock to me. Bring back the books. If I want my son to play video games, I will give him access to that on my terms, that is not for the school system to decide.

  17. This is going to be on the long-winded side, but it really is relevant.

    I heard a wonderful lecture a few years back, given by an economist, about fear. We fear all the wrong things. We fear airplanes, but feel safe in cars, which are staggeringly more likely to kill us. We avoid the spinach that might possibly maybe be contaminated while we load up on French Fries. We panic about Asian flu but don’t bother getting the free shots that would protect us from the flu that we might actually get.

    The speaker pointed to several factors that cause this mathematical illogic. What we tend to fear is the very big, very immediate danger (an airplane crash) no matter how improbable. What we tend to ignore is the slow, long-term problems (the American diet).

    What the speaker didn’t say, but you would, is how this ties into parenting. Parents fear to let their kids play in the park, but think nothing about letting them watch TV for 5 hours a day (the national average). It is far more likely to do far more harm, but it won’t make headlines tomorrow by killing anybody. That is why you are doing such a service by saying “Let your kids take risks!” at the same time that you are saying “Stop it, Scholastic, you’re endangering my kids!” People need to see where the real problems lie.

  18. I’m lucky because my 4 and 9 year old are passionate about books so we’ve dodged a bullet with the flyers and the book fair. They prefer the books.

    But I’ve notice many other parents aren’t so lucky. I see toys go out the door in droves at the book fair. Yes, Scholatic is trying to make a buck but aren’t the parents to blame for caving in?

    If and when we’ve been asked if they could get toys at the book fair, our response has and will be, “This a book fair, you can pick out any two books you want, NO TOYS.”

    end of story.

  19. I’m one of those oddball parents who actually likes video games. Yes, yes, yes they make the pictures for the kids so they don’t have to imagine for themselves. But they are also a community experience.

  20. I’m one of those oddball parents who actually likes video games. I was raised with them. I don’t think they’re poison; I think they’re fun. And my kids are very adamant about getting outside even when they could be playing games. Some of them have very interesting, involving story lines. Some are awesome for problem solving. Some have fantastic communities. Some are even all three. Some are total crap, but so a many, many books.

    But they still don’t belong in a “Book Club.” I like books a lot too. They don’t require additional hardware, and they’re cheaper.

    The problem with the Scholastic thing isn’t that it offers stuff other than books, it’s that Scholastic and the school have quite blatantly put profit motives over the entire purpose of the program.

  21. Video games are one of those things that used to be reasonably benign, and now can get way out of hand. So where it used to be Asteroids, now it’s first person shooter stuff. I don’t own a video game system, but I do allow my kids to play some simulation games on the PC. I like Sim games myself (like Sim City) which allow you to learn cause and effect, and experiment with outcomes.

    But even if those sorts of games were available through Scholastic, it seems like it is totally against the point – to encourage reading. That’s another thing about the Sim games – a fair amount of reading is involved – I sneak reading practice into them while they build their cities…

  22. I agree with you in principle, but books are not where the money is made, and schools need the money. I co-run our school’s twice annual Scholastic book fairs. The biggest sellers are the little items: pens, pencils, erasers, book marks, posters. It would be nice if book fairs just sold books, but kids also love the games, stuffed animals, and add ons. And desperate schools love the revenue.

  23. I think if the toys weren’t available, the kids would be happy to leave with a book. The kids just want to get out of class, buy something, and then compare it with their friends. If it’s a book, they may actually start reading it on the bus and finish it at home. If it’s a toy, it’s liable to be ignored before the day is over.

    My boys also go to a Title I school and I’m amazed at the number of parents, who I know are on a budget, free lunch, etc., leaving the book fair with some toy or other while a book, usually priced lower, would far more benefit their child. T

  24. Kenny hit on some great points. But it’s even more than that: we don’t give our kids enough credit nowadays.
    Back when i was little, there was scholastic, and it was strictly books, maybe a puzzle or two. But now, oh, “kids don’t read.” Or, maybe it’s that intellectual pursuits during childhood and emphasis on learning in those early years fell out of favor in the past 15, 20 years. Now everything for kids must be bright and colorful and electronic and EXTREME! Otherwise, what kid would want it?? Don’t blame Scholastic, they are just capitulating to the current anti-intellectual culture, and they have little choice if they want to make money…

    (Of course, given the chance, kids will surprise us, evident by the popularity of Harry Potter.)

    On another note, gonna head to Barnes and Noble. Hopefully, I can find Lenore’s book? Is it out yet??

  25. […] Hey Scholastic: Don’t Sell Our Kids Product Tie-In Dreck Here’s a campaign it’s easy to get behind, “Tell Scholastic: Put the Book Back in Book Clubs.” It’s sponsored […] […]

  26. Oh, those Scholastic Book Fairs! Yuck! My kids, too, know by now that we’re going to buy actual books, and not crap, but they’ve been the source of many a battle. And we have a house full of books, my kids read like crazy, we visit the library & bookstores regularly – so it’s not like they wouldn’t be happy to buy books. But they see the other junk and of course they want it too. I would LOVE to find an alternative – our school does need the revenue, but what a price to pay…

  27. Man, this blog is going down the tubes with the last two stories.

    Lets see if I can sum it up:

    Junk Food + Crap diet = OK

    Video Games + Toys and Posters + books = BAD

    Barnes and Noble = OK

    Schoolastic = BAD

    Look, teach your kids that ads are there just to sell them things. My 7 year old already knows that, and she laughs about them now – about the things they say. She even jokes about how silly some attempts to sell things are.

    Play video games, but don’t let them rule your life and suck your time.

    Come on, what is the harm of a High School Musical poster or TShirt? I hate Disney and that stupid movie, but my daughter loves them. But she doesn’t get to fill her life with that crap either. She gets to see “real” theatre and watches movies some times too.

    I more dislike sending my $$$ to companies with a serious lack of quality product more than I worry about exposing my kid to tie-ins.

    Seriously, just donate some money to your school, buy your kids some used books from a local independent book store, and stop worrying about Schoolastic.

    There are bigger fish to fry. We should be worrying about getting our kids to walk and ride bikes again, and take back our streets and neighborhoods from the automobile… We should be worrying about getting our kids to lean how to find their way home if they get lost (I have given teenaged babysitters rides home who could not tell me how to get to their house because they had never done it on their own!!!) We should worry about the fact that society has isolated people so that they never have to come in to contact with someone who is different than them, to the point that people get offended by people who seem “weird”.

    Get this blog back on track…

  28. I’m a teacher who does the Scholastic book order in my class. I live in a small, rural community where there is zero opportunity for families to purchase books. The Scholastic order gives my students an opportunity to purchase books. A lot of students do purchase the non-book items, but as I teacher, I only give my students the orders with the books in them. I refuse to give my students the video game order (called Click!) or any of the holiday/seasonal promotion items. The orders in Canada no longer contain cheesy and overpriced posters but do contain a wealth of affordable books. That said, the overall quality of the paperbacks are very low. The benefit for teachers is that by doing the order, my bookshelves are full of a variety of interesting books that I received free with my order. I strongly discourage my students to purchase any of the commercial crap (Hannah Montana, Jonas Brothers etc.) and point out books in the order that I would recommend. I like the thought of this posting though.

  29. I am also from Australia and get the Scholastic book club catalogues through the kids’ school. The principal is always encouraging parents to buy from the catalogue because they have great books and also the school library benefits. He has specifically recommended (in the school newsletter) that parents only buy the books and not the other crap (although he had a slightly politer form of words for it😉 except as an occasional special treat. I would buy the books but can never seem to remember to get my order in on time.

  30. You know what, if we don’t buy it, then they won’t put it in there any more. While I hear your message, you do have ultimate control as the consumer. I’m sure they started doing it to attract more sales and it probably worked so they have continued to do it. So I guess the best way to send a message is the good old fashioned way – just don’t buy it and teach your kids why. We can’t expect everyone else to do our job for us. This is an opportunity to teach your kids how to make good buying choices.

  31. Stephanie, exactly how can you “just not buy it” when the children go to the book fair supervised only by their teacher? You’re not there to look over their shoulder and tell them only to buy the books.

  32. […] I am not the only one.  Check this out.  Mckenzi is too old now to find the book fair cool, but Emma and Hannah will be starting […]

  33. AREN’T WE ALL PARENTS HERE? Remember, JUST SAY NO! As for Uly who says how can you “just not buy it”. Is she kidding? I tell my kids, here is the money, buy books only! My mother works as a grocery store manager and actually got yelled at by a customer because “how was she suppose to shop for food and put up with her kids asking her for the random toys on display throughout the store”!
    I actually look at the book fair as a teaching moment so i can stress the importance of books over the foolishness that they try to sell. Instead of trying to ban the toys let’s be parents and realize our children will come across far worse choices to make and we better start helping them make the right ones now!

  34. I definetely dont let my kids get the junk like lip gloss, and video games and stuff like that. But they know that, andmy kids never want those anyways. They even think it is junk. I definetely think the whole scholastic and video game thing is wrong. Why not just go to the video game store and get them?

    My point is that they aren’t doing such a great change to scholastic. I am so happy that the book fairs at my kids schools are NOT filled with junk.

    Anyone agree??

  35. I rather miss the Scholastic Book Club (How I wish colleges had book fairs rather than overpriced textbook shops *sigh*), but I’m not at all surprised it’s now trying to compete with those magazine fundraisers by selling loads of garbage. I did occasionally like a fun item that came packed in with my books coming out of Troll and Scholastic, but it was usually something that was useful to me as a kid, like a magnifying glass, a special clear vented box to collect bugs in or plastic cookie cutters that came along with a book about baking cookies (Clifford the Big Red Dog’s Cookies FTW).

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