Luckily, we don't have to take their word for it. The good folks at CCFC provide a link so we can analyze the data for ourselves (something the many newspapers who ran the story didn't bother to do). The link is here.
I selected a month at random (June 2008) to see just how horrible these non-book items and add-ons were. In the Arrow brochure, CCFC has listed 12 items that are "non-books." Of those twelve items, one is an autograph book, one is a diary, one is a "treasure box" that includes note pads, one is a book of MAD LIBS (and who in their right mind could possibly object to MAD LIBS?), and one is letter stencils. Now, I guess that technically these aren't "books," but they're not exactly glass shards and paint chips either. Really, I'd say five of the items are completely unrelated to words/language/writing/reading. So instead of 14% being "non-book" items, we're looking at closer to 6%, which means that 94% of Scholastic products in this brochure are related to reading/writing/letters/words/that sorta thing.
So the following quote from their press release is just, for a lack of a better word, stupid: “I have a hard time finding real literature among the toys and commercialized junk." Sister, you ain't looking very hard.
But what about those add-ons? Don't they send the message that books aren't good enough? That no kid would buy a book if it wasn't for the glitzy, plastic garbage that came with it?
Well, no. First, publishers already attempt to sell books (real ones, the kind CCFC wants Scholastic to sell more of)by using promotional tools that highlight things other than what is written in a book's pages. How many of us have purchased a book because it had a flashy cover? How many have bought a book only because it was written by a certain author? (I especially love when the author's name is twice the size of the title.) Why do publishers bother with blurbs from famous writers or other "celebrities?" Publishers will stop at nothing to sell a book because that's how they make money. I fail to see how Scholastic throwing in a pen is any worse than what publishers already do to entice potential readers to buy.
But let's look at the actual products, because once again, it isn't as bad as CCFC makes it seem. Here are some of the items added to books in the same issue of Arrow:
- A CSI-type book that comes with stuff to conduct an investigation (makes sense)
- beads with a book about making charm bracelets (be kinda hard without 'em),
- truth or dare cards with a book about embarrassing stories (I'm guessing the cards have words on them that, you know, you'd have to read)
- maps, journal pages, book light (oh, the horror!), stickers
- test tubes, flasks, and a dropper with a Super Secret Formula Lab book.