September 22, 2008
Scholastic Cuts ‘Bratz’ Products for Book Clubs and Fairs
By MOTOKO RICH
The Bratz dolls, a frequent target of those who bemoan the hyper-sexualization of young girls, have taken another hit.
Scholastic Inc., the children’s publisher, will no longer include chapter books based on the overtly sexy Bratz dolls in any of its school book clubs or fairs this year — and an advocacy group is taking credit for the decision.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, based in Boston, said that Scholastic’s move followed an 18-month fight to purge book club fliers that go home with students and are distributed at school book fairs of titles like “Lil’ Bratz: Dancin’ Divas” and “Lil’ Bratz: Catwalk Cuties.” Scholastic has also stopped offering spinoff products, like a Bratz computer game and designer stencil kit, in its book clubs and fairs.
Susan Linn, director of the campaign, said the group’s members had sent 5,000 e-mail messages to Scholastic protesting the highly sexualized images in the Bratz books and products. “When schools send these book club fliers home with children,” Ms. Linn said, “the message is that ‘We think these are fine and are good for your child.’ ”
Scholastic, which generates roughly a third of its revenue from the book clubs and fairs, said its decision to withdraw the Bratz books was influenced as much by dwindling sales as it was by the campaign’s push. Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs, said she also solicited the opinions of editors, teachers and librarians to help choose the titles included in the book clubs and fairs.
Ms. Newman said she met with a representative from the campaign in Boston earlier this year. But, she said, “I can’t be directed by anyone’s special interest.” She added: “That would almost be censorship.”
Parents who had written e-mail messages to Scholastic were pleased with the disappearance of the Bratz books. But they were also concerned that other books tied to popular television shows, movies and toys still appear in the book club fliers or at book fairs. “There are a lot of books that are more just gimmicky,” said Allison Sharma, a technology consultant and mother of two in Newton, Mass. “They aren’t real books.”
Some teachers said that books tied to shows like “Hannah Montana” or “Star Wars” might be the only things some children would read. “There comes a point where if it’s something that’s going to get a kid to start reading, you want to get that hook in there,” said Jennifer Vaillancourt, who teaches third and fourth grade at the Ramsey International Fine Arts Center in Minneapolis. But, she added, “I think the bottom line is the Bratz are inappropriate.” MOTOKO RICH