McDonald's will replace Happy Meal toys with children's books for the first two weeks of November. The company plans to give out 20 million copies with titles like "The Goat Who Ate Everything" and "Doddi the Dodo Goes to Orlando."
Literacy advocates like the idea of encouraging kids to read and hope the unusual promotion raises awareness of a bigger issue
"We love to see anything out there that will encourage people to pick up a book, or a magazine and read," said Marsha Tait from Literacy Volunteers of Syracuse. Tait said she wished McDonald's put some of their resources into a program that would help improve adult literacy as well.
The books are written by McDonalds and feature the company's Funky Farm characters. McDonald's says the books will focus on nutrition, imagination and active play. Most agree that books are an improvement over the standard Happy Meal toy - but long time McDonald's critics like Amber Canavan from the Syracuse Animal Rights Organization say there is still good reason to be skeptical.
"Certainly getting a book rather than a hunk of plastic is less bad but if the book is a veiled advertisement for McDonald's, that's definitely something to be suspicious about," said Canavan.
Some parents were less than excited to hear that the books were based on McDonald's characters. Syracuse mom Kelly Putnam says she hopes the books inspired other kids to read but they would not be her first choice for her own daughter.
"I'm more suspicious and I'm not going to bring my daughter there just for a book," said Putnam.
McDonald's will also partner with the non-profit group Reading is Fundamental to give out another 100,000 books in November.