Student English Newspaper

Picture Books and Illustrated Encyclopedias in McDonald’s “Happy Meal”

Opening a “Happy Meal” bag might have been one of our excitements during a stay at McDonald’s as a child. Casting our minds back to the” Happy Meal” as it was in our childhood, we would probably think of toys of our favorite cartoon characters. So, it might be a little surprising for you to learn that McDonald’s has added picture books and illustrated encyclopedias as an option. You can now choose either a toy or a book for a “Happy Meal”.

Upon learning of this new option for the “Happy Meal”, we, the Mita Campus crew, couldn’t help but wonder if there is any higher purpose behind it: Is it intended to serve the intellectual training of children? Or have there been any changes in the company’s management philosophy, leading to the introduction of books in a “Happy Meal”?

To find answers to these questions, we had an interview with two employees from McDonald’s Japan Co., Ltd.; Ms.Tarama from the “Happy Meal with a Book” department and Ms. Ishiguro from the PR department.

Haitatsuya-san“, directly translated as “A Delivery Boy” ©️ Jun Ichihara

History of “Happy Meal with a Book”

Introduced in 2018 by McDonald’s Japan, the “Happy Meal with a book” has now been widely accepted by its customers. By the end of May 2022, it has provided about 50 stories, selling more than 40 million copies in total. “We wanted children to have more fun through our books, and we thought books could help foster the interaction between children and their parents.”, said Ms. Tarama and Ms. Ishiguro.

When buying a “Happy Meal with a book”, children can choose either a picture book or an illustrated encyclopedia. Wrapped with a durable hardcover, picture books are popular among children for the original stories created by different authors. As for illustrated encyclopedias, stickers and columns included in them capture the interests of children. Moreover, their compact size and lightness make it convenient to carry around.

In August 2022, An original story 「さかなクンとうみのなかのがっこう」(directly translated as “Sakana-Kun and a school under the sea”) was published as a picture book, which was written by Sakana-Kun, a famous Japanese ichthyologist. And a mini-sized illustrated encyclopedia on a variety of fossils was also released, as a series of “Nature Earth Origin” (「小学館の図鑑 NEO」), one of the most authentic Japanese illustrated encyclopedias for children.

“Pengin-no-TokoToko”, directly translated as “Penguin‘s Small Steps” ©️ Chiharu Sakazaki

“Happy Meal with a Book” as an Opportunity to Have Fun

“Why are books being sold as a part of “Happy Meal”? “. This was our core question for this article. The idea of providing books in a “Happy Meal” originally came about from McDonald’s overseas. However, as for this “Happy Meal with a book”, there is an objective unique to McDonald’s Japan.

”Sekai-ichi-Reigi-Tadashii-Kaiju Bonbarubon”, directly translated as “Bonbarubon — The Politest Dinosaur in The World”, ©️ Q-rais

In some countries, the educational aspect of the “Happy Meal” is strongly promoted aiming to solve problems such as low literacy rates. In Japan, on the other hand, the literacy rate is so high that it is not an actual concern. Therefore, rather than tackling specific educational problems, McDonald’s Japan has started the “Happy Meal with a Book”-a campaign aiming to offer amusement to parents and children by providing them the opportunity to read picture books and illustrated encyclopedias together.

We were particularly impressed by the following words of Ms. Tarama and Ms. Ishiguro. “McDonald’s is a place where people of all ages, from children to seniors, can enjoy themselves.” Office workers and seniors take a break with a cup of coffee, parents and their children enjoy their time together, and students stay at McDonald’s as a place to chat or to study. As Ms. Tarama and Ms. Ishiguro say, no other food restaurant seems to be as loved by all generations as McDonald’s.

McDonald’s is a place where anyone can have a good time. Precisely because of this atmosphere, the “Happy Meal with a Book”-campaign was born. It is McDonald’s Japan’s first and foremost purpose to help parents and children have a more enjoyable time through picture books and illustrated encyclopedias.

Written by Keita Konishi, Masahiro Tanaka and Sarah Marlowe
Edited by Deniz Lemke

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