Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bratz books banned from Scholastic school book sales

Vancouver Sun: 2008 September 18

Parents, psychologists complained the controversial dolls promote ‘precocious sexuality’

The largest distributor of children’s books to Canadian schools has decided to yank all Bratz books from its roster after parents and psychologists complained the controversial dolls promoted “precocious sexuality.”

Scholastic Inc. distributes its products through school-based book fairs and clubs, selling books to students and teachers at discounted prices. But after a North American campaign led by the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood against books and products featuring the popular Bratz dolls, the book distributor has relented.

The company confirmed Wednesday that its fall product line for schools no longer includes the Bratz brand — a switch from last year, when Scholastic said the books appealed to “reluctant readers” and its job was to “offer materials that appeal to children where they are, not where we would like them to be.”

In a statement, Scholastic declined to comment on Bratz books, saying “the books we offer have been selected by an experienced team of editors who consult with our teacher and librarian advisers and review thousands of titles from all publishers.

“Our goal has been and continues to be to provide quality, affordable books that meet the wide range of reading levels and interests of today’s students and help every child develop a love of reading.”

The Bratz book line is a spinoff of MGA Entertainment Inc.’s top-selling fashion dolls notable for their skimpy wardrobe of miniskirts, high-heel boots and feather boas.

In addition to books like Lil’ Bratz Dancin’ Divas and Lil’ Bratz Catwalk, Scholastic last year also offered the Bratz: Rock Angelz computer game so girls can create their own fashion magazine and the Bratz Fashion Designer stencil kit for elementary students to design “the perfect purse.”

Since February 2007, Scholastic and its Canadian subsidiary received more than 5,000 e-mails as part of the anti-Bratz campaign.

“We’re just really thrilled and it really attests to the power of people working together to try and make change,” said campaign coordinator Susan Linn.

“The Bratz are a highly sexualized brand and when a brand is marketed in a school, it has that school’s endorsement. Essentially, schools were saying to their students, ‘This is a good way to portray girls, these are models that you should strive for.’”

Linn, a psychologist and author of The Case for Make-believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World, said she was particularly troubled with Scholastic’s apparent tacit endorsement of the Bratz brand.

“Scholastic has such a stellar reputation with parents and with teachers and for Scholastic to be supporting and promoting this kind of sexualization, it was very troubling.”

Edmonton mother Wendy Boyko was among the thousands who flooded Scholastic with their objection to Bratz books for sale in schools.

“For me, my main concern was just the appearance, the makeup and the clothing being more suggestive than necessary or more suggestive than what our teenagers should be wearing, and targeting that to little girls who don’t need to be looking like that,” said Boyko, whose daughters are ages five and eight.