Pizza Huts Book It program, which encourages children to read, is under fire from Susan Linn of A Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. She and other critics maintain that the program encourages children to eat junk food as a reward for the reading program sponsored by Pizza Hut.
The Book It program was first started in 1985. It runs from The 1st Of October to the 31st of March every year and is focused on children from K through 6th grade. It also has a program which runs two months each year for preschool aged children. It encourages children to read at least 20 minutes a day . Teachers involved in the program set a monthly reading goal. When the child reaches that goal, they receive a coupon redeemable for a free personal pan pizza.
Recent concern over childhood obesity and the amount of junk food children consume raises the concern that the children involved in the program are more motivated by the free pizza prize than the reading itself.
The program has had strong supporters including Ronald Reagan. In 1988 he presented Pizza Hut a citation for the program. It also has a strong advisory board from education and library associations. Book It partners include The Department of Education, RIF, and First Book, a nonprofit organization that provides books to children in need.
Book It encourages family involvement in the children’s reading and provides teachers with tips and tools to keep their students motivated in reading. 900,000 classrooms nationwide are participants of the program. Each child, or parent and child, keeps a running tally of pages and books read each month which is then turned in to the teacher for credit and the child receives the certificate with their name on it which entitles them to one free pizza at their local Pizza Hut.
This program reaches out to 50,000 schools across the country and 22 million children. Leslie Tubbs, the current director of the program says that they receive hundreds of emails from alumni, thanking and acknowledging the program for contributing to their love of reading.
Critics also complain that the program encourages children to read easier books to more quickly accumulate the points needed to receive the certificate and that the program encourages overeating instead of reading.
They claim that this only advertises and encourages business to go to Pizza Hut and forces families to go to the restaurant, instead of focusing on reading. Over 100 Million pizzas have been given away through the sponsored Book It Program.