McDonald’s will give away as many as nine million books with Happy Meals as part of a campaign to improve children’s literacy, it has been announced.
The fast food chain has signed a deal with publisher Harper Collins to hand out War Horse novelist Michael Morpurgo’s Mudpuddle Farm books over the next four weeks. It revealed that a similar initiative in Sweden was successful.
From Wednesday, children will receive one of Mossop’s Last Chance; Albertine, Goose Queen; Pigs Might Fly!; Jigger’s Day Off; Martians At Mudpuddle Farm and Mum’s The Word with every Happy Meal purchase. McDonald’s, which is also giving away finger puppets based on a character from the books, confirmed that people can buy the novels at outlets across the country without having to purchase a Happy Meal.
The campaign has received backing from the National Literacy Trust, while TV presenter Jeff Brazier has also thrown his weight behind the initiative.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said: “Our recent research showed that one in three children in this country don’t own a book, which is extremely concerning as there is a clear link between book ownership and children’s future success in life.
“We are very supportive of McDonald’s decision to give families access to popular books, as its size and scale will be a huge leap towards encouraging more families to read together.”
Jack Sallabank, the trust’s brand partnership manager, told the Guardian: “The National Literacy Trust’s interest in the McDonald’s campaign is not related to the number of Happy Meals sold. Nine million books will be distributed to children during the campaign. In a society where one in three children don’t own a book, this type of campaign will be hugely effective at reaching those who aren’t introduced to reading at home and done so in an environment in which they feel comfortable.”
Happy Meals normally come with a toy, which is usually tied in to the latest children’s movie release. McDonald’s started to include bags of fruit in Happy Meals after accusations they were unhealthy. The book offer is the fast food chain’s latest bid to boost its reputation, following its decision to sell only organic milk, print calories on its menu boards, and refurbish all of its outlets.