Over the top(-pings)


You may have heard of Book It, a long-running program sponsored by Pizza Hut that gives free pizzas to kids who read books. Kids getting into reading — that’s a good thing, right? Apparently not:

Book It, which reaches about 22 million children a year, “epitomizes everything that’s wrong with corporate-sponsored programs in school,” said Susan Linn, a Harvard psychologist and co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

“In the name of education, it promotes junk food consumption to a captive audience … and undermines parents by positioning family visits to Pizza Hut as an integral component of raising literate children,” Linn said.

This week, Linn’s organization called on parents to end their schools’ participation in the long-standing program.

Though some activists have previously questioned Book It, Linn said Friday that only after the recent upsurge of concern over child obesity and junk food did her group feel it could make headway with a formal protest campaign. She said many schools are trying to reduce students’ access to soda, and contended that Book It should face similar scrutiny.

Here’s a news flash for Susan Linn: Parents can choose freely what to do with their kids. They are not tools of any corporate mega-structure. Believe it or not, I actually read to my kids without offering them pizza! Let’s dispense with the self-serving angle that parents are being “undermined” or forced into a certain position. Free markets, people — if I think Book It benefits me, I’ll use it, otherwise I won’t. Why is this so hard to understand?

Also, don’t you think kids are eating pizza whether they read or not?

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Over the top(-pings)

  1. Well, I do think Book It! is silly and misguided, but not because the kids are eating junk food. I think it’s silly because reading ought to be its own reward. If you (the child) learn this cool new thing, then you don’t have to wait for someone to read to you. Whole worlds open up. Reading is one of life’s great pleasures and should be undertaken because it itself is fabulous -not because we’re willing to bribe the kids with pizza.

    I think the bribery suggests that the task is onerous, and if we don’t reward the kids they won’t want to do it. Nonsense!

    I actually used Book It!, not assuming that it provided any benefit at all. Of course I read to my kids without it. They would learn to be competent readers with or without it -which of course they did. They wanted pizza, and this was a place I didn’t feel like fighting. The only “benefit” was not having to spend the energy explaining to an elementary school student and/or teacher why I felt the way I did.

  2. You certainly won’t get any argument from me about your approach to reading, since I basically share your beliefs. Actually at our place, the whole rewards system mentioned here is inverted — we use going to the library and getting books as the bribe to get our 3-year old to do stuff she doesn’t want to do. Plus, she doesn’t even like pizza!

    But the point is that disagreeing with the intentions of the program is not a basis for banning it, as Ms. Linn is trying to do. Book It is not a public health risk (despite what some people think about trans fats etc.) and parents can choose not to use it if they, like you, don’t care for it. But Susan Linn is not in a position where she can dictate what’s best for anybody’s family but her own.