Scholastic Inc., the children’s publisher of favorites like the Harry Potter, Goosebumps and Clifford series, may be best known for its books, but a consumer watchdog group accuses the company of using its classroom book clubs to push video games, jewelry kits and toy cars.
While we like a lot of books Scholastic publishes, and their program to provide books to schools, it’s hard not to be quite miffed when we receive what is basically a toy catalog about three times each school year. When I was a child, living in rural Wisconsin, the Scholastic book order was my big chance to buy my own books. My mom would let me buy as many books as I wanted, given my track record of reading them all. Nowadays, the Scholastic catalog is a mixture of real books, novelizations, and just plain toys. Like everything else about parenting now, the Scholastic catalog means you have to monitor and censor. You have to go through every page of your child’s choices to determine whether they are a good choice for your child. Inevitably, there are disappointments and disagreements about what is appropriate, and even about what counts as a “book.” We address the toy issue by saying we won’t pay for any choice that isn’t a real book. No longer also is there a feeling that this is a way for a child to choose his or her own books. All of these books are available on Amazon and other outlets.
Given this new report by The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, we hope Scholastic will get back to the roots. They have a good thing going with the nation’s schools. They shouldn’t take advantage of the situation by putting profits over books.