At least one local parent isn’t clowning around with the idea of fast food corporations sponsoring children’s reading programs.
Recently a parent of a child wrote a letter to the Okanagan Regional Library urging them to reconsider allowing corporate marketing to be used in children’s programing.
The letter specifically references the program called Reading with Ronald McDonald, where children aged five to seven are encouraged to read by McDonald’s trademark clown Ronald McDonald singing, telling jokes and playing games with them.
Stephanie Hall, executive director of the library board, confirmed several parents have raised concerns about the program recently.
“I think it’s just the question of are we allowing marketing to children in the library and should we be doing that,” Hall said.
Hall said the program has been held at different branches throughout the library board for a number of years. Generally the program is held at libraries in communities that have at least one McDonald’s restaurant and that restaurant pays for the performer to put on a show for the children wearing the red wig, red nose, red shoes and bright yellow costume adorned with McDonald’s logos.
“He does not sell McDonald’s to the kids,” Hall said adamantly. “Some parents think it’s an invasion of a public space. It’s nothing against the performer. This performer is a well-trained singer, many people have given good feedback.”
In response to the letter the Okanagan Regional Library has struck a committee that will be led by Area E (Naramata) director Karla Kozakevich.
Kozakevich told her fellow Regional District Okanagan Similkameen directors that the policy of corporate sponsorships and programming is something she will be working on in the coming weeks and months.
Kozakevich hadn’t yet heard the details of the offending program, but did say the use of cartoon characters could be concerning especially when used to promote what many consider unhealthy eating.
She did make reference to Ronald McDonald House, which is sponsored by McDonald’s, and provides accommodation for seriously ill children and their families.
“There are great things like Ronald McDonald House which is sponsored by McDonald’s and does a lot of good. There’s really mixed views here about policy and I think it’s good that we’re going to look into that,” she said.
She said a committee of six Okanagan Regional Library board members will look into the corporate sponsorship policy. She guessed the recommendations would not go to the board until the new year.
McDonald’s recently grabbed headlines when the company released a statement saying Ronald McDonald appearances are being cut back in many communities because of creepy clown sightings.
McDonald’s Corp. said in a statement to the Associated Press that the company is being “thoughtful in respect to Ronald McDonald’s participation in community events” as a result of the “current climate around clown sightings in communities.”