Teachers to Scholastic: Don’t Use Us to Market Toys, Make-up, and Brands to Children in School

Date of Release: 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

May 19, 2009
Contact: Evan Silverstein (617.278.4174; esilverstein@jbcc.harvard.edu)
For Immediate Release

Teachers to Scholastic: Don’t Use Us to Market Toys, Make-up, and Brands to Children in School

“Stop enlisting teachers to sell toys, make-up, and brands to students through book clubs.” That’s what more than 1,200 teachers said in a letter the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood sent to Scholastic, Inc., the world’s largest educational publishing company. CCFC sent the letter, signed exclusively by teachers, after a review of Scholastic’s 2008 elementary and middle school Book Club flyers found that one-third of the items for sale were either not books, like the M&M Kart Racing Wii videogame, or were books packaged with other products, such as lip gloss and jewelry.

“Anything that teachers hand out in the classroom carries their implicit endorsement,” said Dr. Susan Linn, CCFC’s Director. “Scholastic should not be exploiting teachers’ influence with students to sell toys and trinkets or to promote media properties, like Hannah Montana and SpongeBob SquarePants, to childrenin schools.” Signatures were collected online and at state and local meetings of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. 

Last February, CCFC forwarded over 5,000 complaints from parents to Judy Newman, President of Scholastic Book Clubs. In response, she told The New York Times that the company works with teachers “to make sure that items are O.K. to put out in their classrooms.” That over 1200 teachers signed on to CCFC’s letter shows that many believe the proliferation of branded and non-book items marketed in the Book Clubs are not, in fact, “O.K.” A number of teachers felt strongly enough to include personal comments highlighting their dissatisfaction with the commercialization of Scholastic’s offerings.

“I have noticed this gradual change over the last several years and I have been concerned about it. I am sometimes embarrassed to send home a particular issue with too many trashy choices. I feel this reflects on me as a teacher.”
~Amie Buchman, K-1st Grade Teacher, Pierce School, Brookline, MA

“...[I]n recent years, I am finding many fewer books that I want to own or read to the children...commercial stories, growing up too soon topics, and all sorts of things that aren’t books at all.  So I have made very few purchases in the past ten years and feel much less enthusiastic about giving [out] the order forms...”
~Laurie Kleen, Preschool & Kindergarten Teacher, A Growing Place Montessori School, St. Louis, MO

Although Scholastic’s Book Clubs offer teachers the chance to build their classroom libraries and students the chance to buy low-cost books, teachers are looking elsewhere for these opportunities and refusing to distribute Scholastic’s flyers until they improve their selection:

“I've ordered quality books from you for years, but stopped handing out the order forms when I found that my students were primarily buying toys that it seemed like I approved of!”
~Sarae Pacetta, Pre-K Teacher, Lee Academy Pilot School, Dorchester, MA

“I stopped offering Scholastic book clubs 5 years ago because the overall quality of the books offered had declined and because of the inclusion of Disney and other brand toys and related books.”
~Beth London, Pre-K Teacher, Poker Hill School, Underhill, VT

“Please discontinue all non-book items from your book orders, web site, and book fairs...Until this happens I'm boycotting Scholastic and looking for another company for book orders.”        
~Larry Burt, 4th Grade Teacher, Roseway Heights School, Portland, OR

“I have long been troubled by the commercial nature of your offerings, and for precisely that reason, have pretty much stopped distributing Scholastic information to my classes. I loved Scholastic before all of the media influence, and would happily return to distributing offerings to my class and ordering myself if you returned to selling quality literature.” 
~Margo Ross, Kindergarten Teacher, Tierra Pacifica Charter School, Santa Cruz, CA

“The opportunity to market directly to children in schools is a privilege, not a right,” Dr. Linn added. “Teachers shouldn’t be enlisted as sales agents for products like Hannah Montana bracelets.”

CCFC plans to continue to track Scholastic Book club offerings. One of the more egregious recent findings was the Dairy Queen video game, DQ Tycoon, which appears in Scholastic’s June 2009 Arrow flyer.