The fast food chain will give out 9 million Mudpuddle Farm books, written by Michael Morpurgo, over the next four weeks, after it signed a tie-up with the publisher Harper Collins.
In 2011, sales of children’s books averaged 1.16 million per week – 6.4 million in a four week period – which means that McDonald’s will be handing out considerably more children’s books than are usually sold in the UK in the same period.
A finger puppet, relating to the series of books, will also be included alongside the Happy Meal.
McDonald's said a similar book giveaway in Sweden had proved very popular.
This is the latest attempt by McDonald's to improve its reputation, following the decision to sell only organic milk, print calories on its menu boards, and refurbish all of its outlets.
Its Happy Meals, which cost about £2.20, have come under fire in the past for encouraging 'pester power'. Alongside a burger or chicken nuggets, chips and a drink children are given a toy, usually tied in to the latest cinema release.
McDonald's started to include bags of fruit after accusations that the Happy Meals were unhealthy.
At the end of last year an American woman filed a lawsuit in California alleging that McDonald's was luring in her daughter through its distribution of free toys.
Literacy campaigners said it did not matter if McDonald's decision was prompted by a desire to improve its image. Eight out of ten all families with young children visit the fast-food company at least once over the course of the year, so there was a strong chance they would end up with a book.
Jonathan Douglas, director of The National Literacy Trust, said: “Our recent research showed that one in three children in this country don’t own a book, which is extremely concerning as there is a clear link between book ownership and children's future success in life. We are very supportive of McDonald’s decision to give families access to popular books, as its size and scale will be a huge leap towards encouraging more families to read together.”
The McDonald’s Happy Meal book promotion will include six titles from the Mudpuddle Farm range: Mossop’s Last Chance; Albertine, Goose Queen; Pigs Might Fly!; Jigger’s Day Off; Martians at Mudpuddle Farm; Mum’s the Word.
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