McDonald’s introduces the choice as a survey reveals more than half of parents say lockdown has affected how much their child reads

·    Book or Toy? Parents now have the option of which item they would like in their Happy Meal, having given away 93 million books through their Happy Readers scheme for the past eight years

·    New research shows the negative impact of lockdown on children’s reading habits, with 21% of parents worrying it will decrease even further over the Summer holidays

29th July 2020… New study released today from McDonald’s UK shows that over two-thirds (67%) of parents agree that school plays THE major role in children’s reading. With the closure of schools over lockdown, 47% of parents say their children are reading less than before and 55% say they just don’t have access to as many books at home.  

Plus after 16 weeks in total and partial lockdown, parents face another six weeks with children at home and 21% worry their reading will drop off even further, with 17% of parents now having trouble getting their child to read for more than ten minutes twice a week**.

A third of parents surveyed (29%) rely on charity shops for books, which have been closed and 26% say new books are too expensive. In addition to the option of choosing a book with Happy Meals, to help ensure families in greatest need have books over the summer, McDonald’s is distributing 2500 books to local charities such as Fareshare.

Access to books is something McDonald’s has been tackling for eight years, as the largest provider of books to children in the country, having given away more than 93 million through their Happy Readers scheme where toys are replaced with books for a six week period annually. However, from today, parents will be able to choose a book or a toy every time they purchase a Happy Meal for their child. Two new books will be available from today, Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Castle; Scooby-Doo and the Werewolf and book choices will rotate alongside the toy promotion.

Children’s author and McFly front-man Tom Fletcher, announced last year as the McDonald’s Happy Readers ambassador, comments on the findings  “My son loves reading at school with his teachers and friends, which he has been missing over the last few months. With books being less accessible to some families during the pandemic, I’m sure many other children across the country have been missing reading at school and borrowing books from libraries. I think it’s amazing that a summer holiday treat to McDonald’s can also now mean a great new story to take home. Book or Toy is a very timely and important initiative, which will be beneficial to kids and families over the holidays and beyond, encouraging them to read new books at home together.”

The research of 2,000 parents goes on to show that while 78% of parents would like their child to read more, and 94% agree it’s important, almost a quarter (23%) admit they can only read to their children once a week or less.

In fact, over 61% have found that the juggling of work, home-schooling and other commitments during lockdown has negatively impacted on story time, as has not having regular teaching support to encourage reading (54%). Of those surveyed almost-a-quarter (24%) agreed they’d love their children to have more books at home.

Michelle Graham-Clare, Vice President Food and Marketing at McDonald’s UK and Ireland comments, “We have been committed to getting books in children’s hands for nearly a decade, and are proud to have distributed more than 93 million books in the UK and Ireland in that time. The Book or Toy initiative is another example of providing our Happy Meal families with even greater choice – and what a choice to have! A brilliant story from some fantastic authors or a fun toy featuring some of their favourite film and TV characters

“This programme not only allows us to distribute even more books, but also supports our sustainability journey, giving families the ability to opt out of plastic toys. We are always working on our Happy Meal and from 2021, we will no longer give away hard plastic toys. We’re testing new packaging solutions for books and toys and constantly reviewing the menu to offer even greater choice to families.”

Long time supporters of the Happy Readers scheme, Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust said:

“Books have the power to enrich children’s lives – they fuel imaginations, help children learn new things and support positive mental wellbeing. Yet many children are missing out on these benefits at a time when they need them most because they don’t have a single book of their own. That’s why we’re so pleased to be supporting McDonald’s to bring the magic of stories into children’s homes this summer through their new book or toy initiative. When children enjoy reading and have their own books, they are more likely to succeed in school, work and life, so we must do everything we can to inspire children to fall in love with reading for a lifetime.”

*2,000 UK parents of children 5-11 20th-24th July Opinium

**The current guidance for 5-8-year olds is approximately 10 minutes a day.



Notes to Editor

·     From 2021, every Happy Meal in the UK and Ireland will include either a soft toy, paper-based  toy or book.

·     These commitments will remove over 3,000 metric tons of plastic from the business from 2021, the largest reduction by McDonald’s to date.

·     The moves are the latest in a series of efforts to improve the company’s impact on the environment

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