Scholastic rebuked for using book clubs to market toys

“Put the book back in book club!” the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood told children's book publisher Scholastic.

The CCFC said in a press release today that in Scholastic’s elementary and middle school book clubs flyers one-third of the items for sale are either "not books or are books packaged with other items such as jewelry, toys or makeup."

Scholastic, which is the US publisher of the Harry Potter books,  is a giant in the field of children's book clubs. The company launched its book clubs in 1948 and today more than 2.2 million US school children participate each year in the clubs (which last year earned Scholastic nearly $337 million.)

“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.”

But Judy Newman, the Scholastic vice president who oversees the book clubs, told the Associated Press that her company must fight to maintain student interest in the book clubs.

"We're losing kids' interest (in reading). We have to keep them engaged," Newman said in a telephone interview. "This (book club) model is 60 years old, and it has to stay relevant to do the work it does. To the extent we put in a few carefully selected non-book items, it's to keep up the interest."

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