Scholastic Inc., the children’s publisher of favorites like the Harry Potter, Goosebumps, and Clifford series, might be best known for its books — but a consumer watchdog group accuses the company of using its classroom book clubs to push video games, jewelry kits, and other toys, reports the New York Times. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group based in Boston, said it reviewed monthly fliers distributed by Scholastic last year and found that one-third of the items sold in these brochures were either not books or books packaged with other items. Susan Linn, director of the campaign, said she had received complaints from parents who were concerned that their children were being sold toys, games, makeup, and other items under the guise of a literary book club that is promoted in classrooms. "Marketing in schools is a privilege and not a right," Linn said. "Scholastic is abusing that privilege." In response to the complaint, Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs, said she stood by every product in the book club fliers. Many of the items identified by the campaign, she said, were books sold with other items to help engage children who "may not be traditional readers." Scholastic estimates that more than 75 percent of all elementary school teachers participate in its book clubs, and the company generates about 20 percent of its revenues from these clubs. "We work with teachers to make sure that items are OK to put out in their classrooms," Newman said. "In a class of 24 kids, some of them will be turned on by a game, and it helps kids engage in the book-club process."
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