Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Pimp my YA

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I see over on Quillblog today there's a link to a NYTs article about Scholastic’s practice of weaseling toys and “bookproduct” (as such stuff is called in the publishing industry) into classrooms under the guise of its book-club program. The article is about a study conducted by a group called Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which dissected Scholastic’s in-classroom book club brochures and found that “one-third of the items sold in these brochures were either not books or books packaged with" toys and other non-book items like makeup and posters.

The article quotes Susan Linn, director of the campaign: “Marketing in schools is a privilege and not a right,” Ms. Linn said in an interview. “Scholastic is abusing that privilege.”

I have to agree.

[A portion of this post, mentioning Eric Walters, has been deleted by the author. If you are interested in Eric, please read this new post.]


I have no idea where to draw the line. When I was in high school, my school agreed to be part of a new program that would give us a TV in every classroom, but forced us to watch gum commercials every morning.... that chew chew, chew chew cha boogie one. Some kids were really against it at the time. It did give students a chance to broadcast the morning announcements as a live TV broadcast. I guess there are positives and negatives to any issue.

@calisaurus - I hear what you're saying, but I think the concern is about co-opting the classroom. Where do we draw the line? Should we have candy bar machines in there as well? Remember, these are publicly funded schools. There's a certain mandate that has to be upheld and once you blur the line between public interests and corporate interests it can get tricky. Corporations will generally only look out for themselves. Not that publishers aren't corporations and books aren't products, but there's significant difference in value (cultural, educational, personal) between a well-written novel and a junky plastic toy. Kids need to be given the space and context to learn to understand that.

@kendra - I agree with you, and I think also that the books themselves need space in the current media-saturated landscape so that kids can have a clear route to them and discover that they are, in fact, lots of fun. Books tend to get pushed aside. Toys and other distractions have plenty of opportunity to get the attention of children. I mean, when was the last time a book was advertised during Saturday morning cartoons? Reading is vital exercise for the brain, so kids need to be given an opportunity to get excited about books without distractions.

I'm not sure I agree - those Scholastic catalogues are more about having fun and cool new products than the seriousness of reading. When I was a kid my parents said "no" to the Scholastic flyer and pointed me in the direction of the library. Kids love book products and I don't think it's wrong for Scholastic to market those products in the classroom. It's not like it's required reading... just a take home flyer!

It's important not to dilute the very real educational value of books for school children. I'd rather see parents spend money on books and for kids to get excited about a good book and not some toy.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Shaun Smith

Shaun Smith is a novelist and journalist living in Toronto. His young adult novel Snakes & Ladders was published in January 2009 by the Dundurn Group.

Go to Shaun Smith ’s Author Page