You all know the program. It is in schools all over the Nation. But is Pizza Hut’s Book It program a thing of the past? Since 1985, Pizza Hut has used the Book It incentive program to encourage kids to read. But with the rising obesity problem in children, is this program only adding to the problem? Some experts say that it is. Child development experts claim that the Book It program not only encourages unhealthy eating habits, it turns teachers into cooperate promoters (www.cnn.com).
Pizza Hut has built their Book It program up over the past 21 years to the enormous presence it now has in today’s schools. Book It now reaches 22 million children each year through their program (www.northjersey.com). Susan Linn, a psychologist from Harvard University and co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says that the program “epitomizes everything that’s wrong with corporate-sponsored programs in school,” Linn goes on to say 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,” (www.northjersey.com).
Linn’s group, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has called on parents and educators to put an end to the Book It program. Linn commented on schools’ effort to eliminate soda consumption, and suggested that Pizza Hut pizza should be held under the same scrutiny (www.northjersey.com). In the past, activists have questioned the Book It program, it is only after the recent focus on childhood obesity that a formal effort to end the program has been considered (www.cnn.com).
Pizza Hut will not go quietly into the night, though. Through their Book It program, Pizza Hut has given away more than 200 million pizzas (www.cnn.com). The program has countless supporters, many of which hold powerful political and educational positions. Book It even earned a citation by president Reagan and his advisory committee in 1988 (www.northjersey.com).
The American Library Association, an influential group in the educational system was just one of the members of this advisory committee. “We’re really proud of the program,” said Leslie Tubbs, its director for the past five years. “We get hundreds of e-mails from alumni who praise it and say it helped them get started with reading” (www.cnn.com).
Pizza Hut, the Dallas-based pizza giant runs the Book It program, which is now the Nations largest reading motivation programs. Book It is conducted annually in about 925,000 elementary school classrooms from Oct. 1 through March 31. A two-month program is offered for preschoolers (www.northjersey.com). The idea behind the program is simple. Teachers set a monthly reading goal for each student; those who meet the goal get a certificate they can redeem at Pizza Hut for a free Personal Pan Pizza. The marketing genius of this program is that the families most often accompany the child, buying more pizza and other merchandise for the whole family (www.cnn.com).
Many educators stand by the Book It program, despite it’s criticisms. At Strafford Elementary School in Strafford, Missouri, the approximately 500 students collectively read 30,000 books a year with Book It’s help, according to principal Lucille Cogdill (www.cnn.com). “I don’t have any negative things at all to say about it,” Cogdill said. “I know there’s concern about obesity, but Book It is not causing it, and the schools aren’t causing it” (www.cnn.com).
While the controversy other this popular reading program mounts, schools Nationwide will continue to participate in Pizza Hut’s Book It program.