Sunday, April 5, 2009

Defending Scholastic: Part Three

Note: My guess is that most of my followers really don't want to read the following as I've already brilliantly defended Scholastic twice and have thus converted the haters while at the same time reaffirming the beliefs of those already in support. However, according to some internal data, I've received a fair amount of hits on this blog via Google searches for "scholastic and ccfc" so I figured why not give the Google searchers what they want. Plus, I already had it written.

“It’s bad enough that so many of the books sold in Scholastic book clubs are de-facto promotions for media properties like High School Musical and SpongeBob SquarePants,” said Dr. Linn. Source

One of the problems CCFC has with Scholastic is their cozy relationship with large media corporations and their peddling of licensed character products such as Hannah Montana or High School Musical books.

And here is where I defend Hannah Montana and High School Musical books. (Hmm, there's something I never planned on writing.)

When I was a kid I did not love reading. I didn't hate it, either, but I certainly wasn't spending my recess huddled up against a brick wall with my nose stuck in Charlotte's Web. I liked baseball, fart jokes, Star Wars, and G.I. Joe. (So basically, not much has changed.) Left on my own, I read the Crestwood House Monster Books, biographies of famous baseball players, Star Wars movie novelizations with lots of pictures and a few stickers, and, because my dad recommended them, Hardy Boys mysteries. I'm sure CCFC would not have been pleased.

However, and here's where I defend Hannah and Zach, I read what I was interested in (wacky notion, huh?) and that reading made me a better reader. I learned that reading was okay (as long as it wasn't Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sorry, ladies) and so I read more. Eventually, I picked up Roald Dahl and Judy Blume and later on, Stephen King and Michael Crichton. The point is this: If it takes Disney or Warner Brothers to get my students interested in reading, that's fine with me. I'd rather have kids reading junk than nothing at all. (And besides, I thought the quality of literature was subjective. Give me Captain Underpants over Jennifer Holm any day.)

And while I'm on the topic, I wonder how CCFC feels about Harry Potter and The Golden Compass. Both started as novels, but have become huge multi-media franchises. Is it okay for Scholastic to sell the Harry Potter books now that the characters have been licensed? Can they sell the books, but not the stickers and pens? Is JK Rowling the devil for allowing her characters to be used to market everything from lunch boxes to underwear? Oh wait, the answer appears to be yes. (The linked article was written by the head of CCFC.) It's all a little ridiculous, is it not?

In an interview last fall, Jon Scieszka, the Library of Congress' first national ambassador for children's books, was emphatic in his belief that parents embrace all types of new media and alternative books and stop demonizing them. "We need to acknowledge that TV, computer games and movies are different than books," he said. "But you can do all of those things. ... Reading is in all those formats."

I agree. Let's quit demonizing Scholastic for trying to make a profit and acknowledge that they provide kids with many options (just like we adults enjoy), and while not every child is going to pluck the latest Newbery winner off the shelf (although this year, they just might), many kids are able to buy what they want to read at an affordable price. More books in more kids' hands is a good thing, even if that book is Spongebob Squarepants.


Anita said...

You're right already! Iffin I meet any of these CCFC folks, I'll let 'em have it.

Kelly Polark said...

I so agree. When I was teaching, I had parents worry about which books their kids are reading at home. If they are reading at home, there's no problem! I cringe when my kids pick the HSM or Spongebob book, but I let them buy it, because they will enjoy it. Luckily they get a mix of the media books and the ones that are well written.
I myself read Us Weekly instead of a more scholarly magazine. Sometimes you need the fluff.

Lily Cate said...

I only have problems with organizations that see things as strictly black and white. Which ccfc seems to do, based on their website.
Some commericalization is exploitive, sure. Some things I will not buy for my kid, and I HATE when he starts repeating ad jingles, or company slogans. But that is part of life in the western world. Yes, my son has Spongebob bed sheets. He also has about a hundred picture books of his own, and he loves going to the library.
Part of growing up today is learning not to buy things just because they look cool on TV. We all learned that as a kid, didn't we?
Imagine the college freshman who is dropped off at his first apartment, plugs in satallite TV for the first time, and then opens 400 credit card apps in the mail. Plus, adult consumers need to know how to find things that really work, and cut through the advertizing B.S.
Besides, the most challenging form of advertising parents face isn't from the company, it's from the kid across the street who has the Bratz dolls, and the violent video games.

Ray Veen said...

Preach on, Brother Paul! -- We are WITH you!

Anita said...

Saw this on GalleyCat and thought of you:
The recession can't stop book fairs. CBS News reports: "According to a recent report from the Scholastic Corporation, revenues from fairs for the nine months ending Feb. 28 was $261.2 million, virtually unchanged from the same ninth-month period a year earlier."