Opinion: Scholastic wrongly accused of misusing its Book Clubs to promote *gasp* video games

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scholastic logoScholastic Inc., a children’s book publisher, is in trouble for selling more then just books in its classroom book clubs.

Everyone remembers getting those handouts in school from Scholastic Book Clubs (or Arrow for you older kids) where you could buy all those Goosebumps books. Well, now Scholastic is in trouble for selling stickers, toys, and – yep you guessed it – video games in addition to books.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), an advocacy group based in Boston told the The New York Times that they reviewed the fliers to find that 14% of the items were not books and 19% of the books came with additional items including stickers, board games, or trinkets.

Susan Linn, director of the campaign said that the main complaint is from parents who think the company is using the fliers to sell toys, video games, and other things under the guise of a classroom book club. Also, that it sends the message to kids that when it comes to reading, it’s not the content but what you get with the book.

Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs told The New York Times that she stands by the products sold in the fliers and believes they are all used to promote the books and education.

I don’t see the problem. Being a teacher I have seen the fliers and what is being sold in them. I admit there are a lot more video games and toys then I remember seeing when I was in elementary school but they are all G-rated educational games including Brain Age and Nancy Drew games (which are based on books). They are not selling Grand Theft Auto and Fable 2.

I just don’t see the big deal. A lot of children need incentive to read because they are not very fond of it. So you give them a poster with their book or let them play a game once in a while. I completely disagree with Susan Linn that kids will regard reading with what extra stuff they get with it. I doubt kids think that way, and even if they did, as long as they’re are reading who cares what they think?

Plus, the CCFC said that it only found 14% of the items to not be books. That’s not even a third of the flier so it should not even be worth worrying about.

Bottom line, there is nothing wrong with Scholastic Book Clubs selling a few extra items to promote their books or give the kiddies a little extra incentive to read.

Read [The New York Times] Site [Scholastic Online Store]

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  • oliemoon

    I am just hazarding a guess here, but I suspect that these book programs aren't doing as well as they have done in the past. The book market and the children's entertainment market have both changed so much over the past decade. It wouldn't surprise me if selling games is helping them keep their profits sustainable.

    But man, I could never convince my parents to buy me books from those clubs back when I was a kid, no way they would have gone for a video game! 😉

  • Jessica Moen

    lets face it, with all the ADD and ADHD that has sprung up, kids find it harder and harder to read! They get frustrated that they can't concentrate and give up.

    At least a video game can keep them engaged. and maybe after they play for a while, their confidence will come back and they can try reading again. And most of these games (specially RPG's) involve reading to keep up with the story.

    I was never a big reader as a kid, still not to be honest, but I never thought of a video game as being the "exception" to reading! I always knew i should still read more.

  • Jessica Moen

    maybe 20+ years from now, when all the kids who grew up with video games have their own kids, Society will finally accept games as more than just entertainment. or at least not regarded as "the devil!"

  • PJ Hruschak

    Agreed. Even public libraries are using games to bring kids in.

    Observationally speaking, it seems that more adults are heading to libraries to get books on tape/CD (or to the library web sites to download books on tape) rather than read the same book.

    (Of course, if your only employment opportunity in this cruddy economy is a 40+ min. drive, then a book on tape is certainly better for road safety than a book.)

    Older kids seem to cluster around the DVDs and games. Bless the littlest kids who still head for the colorful, toy-filled children's book section.

    Also, even publishing houses are starting to look to increased digital distribution since print and distribution costs continue to increase. Then it's a matter of do you prefer to read text on a tiny screen for hours or listen to a book? I'm guessing that, given the choice, most people would prefer to listen from their more convenient MP3 player than squint at small sections of text on a tiny screen.

    The good news is that with increased digital distribution, e-reading devices will continue to improve in quality (read: increased readability, better power management, decreased eye strain and lower prices).

  • PJ Hruschak

    NPR had a story a few weeks about a study that suggested there is a marked increase in diagnosis of ADHD (at least the AD part) in girls. They described the typical girl with ADHD as the quiet daydreamer while the typical ADHD boy was more hyperactive. (They eventually conceded that both show both types of outward manifestations and those were statistical tendencies). It wasn't clear if the increase was the reporting and slight rethinking of ADHD or the reality.

    In any case, it's pretty hard to concentrate on anything – especially a page with a bunch of words on it – when either daydreaming or running around the room. I'm guessing the right type of game can provide enough engagement to help counteract either of those behaviors.

    I wonder how much ADHD (either the attention or reaction to it) has affected media and vice versa. There are so many more nugget-sized blog posts and short, single-source news stories that now infest the web than ever before.

    (I believe this was the episode: )