Home > Blog > McDonald's UK to Bring the…

McDonald's UK to Bring the Extraordinary World of Roald Dahl to Life for Millions of Children Through a Landmark Book Partnership

The top ingredients of great storytelling have been revealed by McDonald’s Happy Readers today, including a knack for mimicking voices like Roald Dahl’s famous Willy Wonka, and adding sound effects like the jumbled words and naughty noises of the BFG (Big Friendly Giant).

The results of the major cross-generational survey of more than 3,000 UK grandparents, kids and parents on books and reading, are being released to mark the start of a landmark partnership between McDonald’s Happy Readers, the National Literacy Trust, Penguin Random House Children’s UK and the Roald Dahl Literary Estate.

Over the next six weeks, 14 million books featuring extracts from Roald Dahl’s most popular books will be distributed as part of McDonald’s Roald Dahl Happy Meals, making the extraordinary world of Roald Dahl accessible to millions of children. Families will be able to discover the famous author’s magical universe of characters, from the BFG and his ‘human beans’, to mischievous George and his Marvellous Medicine. 

The research reveals that Roald Dahl and his stories have helped to inspire a nation of avid storytellers in the UK.  Today, three quarters of mums, one in five dads and one in 10 grandparents read regularly to children across the country. Half of adults want to encourage budding readers to stretch their imaginations and the same number use reading as a way to spend time together as a family.

Despite the UK having a rich tradition of reading, the research reveals a desire for more family members to get involved.  Children like being read to by their siblings, but currently just 2% of older brothers and sisters are involved in reading with the family. Families are looking to spend more time reading together, but one third of parents say their own busy lives and hectic family schedules, with lots of after-school activities, often get in the way.

Over half of adults agree that technology can help bring stories to life, through storytelling tools such as live sounds effects. So, in addition to the 14 million books, McDonald’s UK has developed a new, original companion app that will bring to life scenes straight from Roald Dahl’s imagination through sounds, colour and motion.

The research reveals the top five ingredients for extraordinary Roald Dahl-inspired storytelling, as voted for by kids aged 5-11:

  1. Funny voices to bring to life different characters (70%)
  2. Sounds effects and strange, surprising noises (43%)
  3. Facial gestures and expressions to make them laugh (27%)
  4. Parents, grandparents and siblings taking it in turns to read (20%)
  5. Acting out scenes from their favourite storybook (17%)

Since 2013 McDonald’s has distributed more than 22.8m books through its Happy Meals and Happy Readers programme.  McDonald’s Happy Readers campaign was created to put more books into the hands of families, with recent research from the National Literacy Trust showing that only half of children enjoy reading[1] and almost one in seven don’t have a book of their own[2]. Partner organisations including the National Literacy Trust, WH Smith and Kobo, have helped McDonald’s give away some of the UK’s best-loved family reads from Dorling Kindersley’s ‘Amazing World’ series to Enid Blyton’s ‘Secret Seven’.

Steve Hill, Head of Marketing, McDonald’s UK, said:

“Dads like me grew up on the magic of Roald Dahl and his extraordinary characters.Finding time for families to have fun together is all part of a trip to McDonald’s, so I’m thrilled we’re able to introduce the likes of Matilda, James and his Giant Peach and the wonderfully ludicrous Twits to a new generation of readers.

“Our Happy Readers campaign is all about helping families to find the fun in reading but the research findings show that not every parent has the time or confidence to read out loud. I hope that 14 million new Dahl books, with hints and tips for readers old and young, will encourage everyone to discover the wonderful world of Roald Dahl.”

Abigail Moss, Deputy Director, National Literacy Trust, added:

“Reading and telling stories together as a family is so important in giving children a solid grounding in literacy skills and helping them to reach their full potential. Many parents will have enjoyed the wonderful world of Roald Dahl when they were young and now they’ll be able to share these iconic stories with their children. The scale of the campaign will reach millions of children, including many who haven’t owned a book before, inspiring them to enjoy reading and improving their life chances.”

Classic stories that bridge generations – the top ten most read Roald Dahl books as voted for by kids, parents and grandparents:

  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  2. James and the Giant Peach
  3. The BFG
  4. Matilda
  5. Fantastic Mr Fox
  6. The Twits
  7. George’s Marvellous Medicine
  8. The Witches
  9. The Enormous Crocodile
  10. Danny, the Champion of the World


Other research findings include:

  • Roald Dahl’s strange and brilliant characters are what makes his stories so good according to more than half of adults, but over a quarter of kids think that it’s the pranks and tricks.
  • Almost half of kids enjoy reading because it feels like an adventure they can go on at any time. Over a third enjoy reading about strange creatures and monsters, whilst a sixth of kids enjoy reading as they become friends with the characters in their book.



There are eight specially created Roald Dahl books being featured in the Happy Meal. Each book contains extracts from two Roald Dahl books plus brand-new activities.

  • Roald Dahl’s Extraordinary Friends (featuring The Giraffe and the Pelly and Meand The BFG)
  • Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Families – (featuring Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryand Fantastic Mr Fox)
  • Roald Dahl’s Magical Mischief – (featuring George’s Marvellous Medicine andMatilda)
  • Roald Dahl’s Secret Plans – (featuring Esio Trot and The Twits)
  • Roald Dahl’s Curious Characters – (featuring The BFG and James and the Giant Peach)
  • Roald Dahl’s Beastly Creatures – (featuring The Witches and The Enormous Crocodile)
  • Roald Dahl’s Incredible Inventions – (featuring Charlie and The Chocolate Factoryand George’s Marvellous Medicine)
  • Roald Dahl’s Clever Tricks – (featuring The Twits and Matilda)

There are also three books available from £1 from WH Smith or Eason with the Happy Readers £1 book voucher:

  1. Spotty Powder and Other Splendiferous Secrets – featuring a secret chapter from the draft of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that was cut from the published book
  2. Roald Dahl’s Mischief and Mayhem – extracts from favourite Roald Dahl stories, with ideas for tricks and pranks inspired by them
  3. Spotty Powder and Other Splendiferous Secrets is also available as a free ebook via Kobo.

Tips from the National Literacy Trust to make reading fun

The National Literacy Trust is a charity that transforms lives through literacy. We want to get more families reading. Reading is fun and children who read in their own time do better at school and later in life. By partnering with McDonald’s we hope to encourage more families to read together.

Here are s
ome top tips for reading with children:

  • Bring the story to life by using different voices for the characters. Try out a greedy, gravelly tone for the Enormous Crocodile or a wise and whispery voice for the grandmother.
  • Make your child the author! Stop at exciting moments in the story and ask your child to invent what happens next.
  • Make reading with your child a special time for you both every day.
  • Children of all ages love to hear stories read aloud. Don’t stop reading to your children just because they can read by themselves.
  • Let your child help choose the books that you’ll read together. If your child is excited by the subject, the story will hold their interest better.

About the research

The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 3,750 respondents in the UK, including 1,500 parents with kids aged 5-11, 1,500 kids aged 5-11 and 750 grandparents with grandchildren aged 5-11.  The survey was conducted from a random sample of UK respondents.  Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

About McDonald’s UK

  • McDonald’s operates just over 1,250 restaurants across the UK, serving more than 3.5 million customers every day.

About Happy Readers

  • In January 2013, McDonald’s committed to putting more than 15 million books into the hands of families across the UK by the end of 2014.  In January 2015, McDonald’s revealed that it had smashed this target, distributing more than 22.8m books through Happy Meals and its Happy Readers offers.

About Happy Meals

  • Today McDonald’s offers Happy Meals with Fruit Bags and Carrot Sticks, as well as drinks including bottled mineral water and organic milk.
  • McDonald’s works constantly to evolve Happy Meals in line with what parents want, and to keep improving the nutritional value of its food. It has worked hard to add choice and remove salt, fat and sugar from its menu. Three-quarters of the Happy Meal menu is classified as not high in fat, salt and sugar and the average Happy Meal contains 50% less salt and a third less sugar than in 2000.
  • The premiums McDonald’s provides with Happy Meals are designed to be exciting and fun, and have broader social and educational benefits too:
    • In 2012, McDonald’s ran a nature themed Happy Meal with a ‘Grow Your Own’ cress garden and distributed over nine million ‘get active’ counters through its Olympic Mascotathon promotion.
    • McDonald’s also invited kids to take part in the ‘Crazy Cook-Off’ with Tom and Jerry, helping to bring cooking and ingredients to life.

About the National Literacy Trust

We are a national charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK. Our research and analysis make us the leading authority on literacy. We run projects in the poorest communities, campaign to make literacy a priority for politicians and parents, and support schools.

Visit www.literacytrust.org.uk to find out more, donate or sign up for a free email newsletter. You can also find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Phone us on 020 7587 1842 or email [email protected] 

The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944. Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.

For further information please contact:

Danielle Wright, Media and Communications Officer on 0207 820 6262 or at[email protected]

Zara Bishop, Media Manager on 020 7820 6275 or at [email protected]

About Roald Dahl and his legacy

Born in Cardiff of Norwegian descent, Roald Dahl (1916–1990) was one of the world’s most inventive, mischievous and successful storytellers. His stories are currently available in 58 languages and, by a conservative estimate, he has sold more than 200 million books.

Many of Roald Dahl’s best-loved stories have been adapted for stage and screen. High-profile film adaptations include Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), James and the Giant Peach (1996), Matilda (1996), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) andFantastic Mr Fox (2009). The next movie will be Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of The BFG, set for release in July 2016.

The RSC’s phenomenally successful award-winning stage version of Matilda The Musicalcontinues to play to packed audiences in London’s West End and on Broadway, ahead of its Australia opening and US tour later in 2015. Over a million people have seen the acclaimed West End musical production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Sam Mendes, since its opening in June 2013. A mischievous new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Twits by Enda Walsh premiered at London’s Royal Court in April 2015. In July 2015, the first app to feature Roald Dahl characters, ‘Twit or Miss’, launches.

Roald Dahl Day is marked annually all over the world on – and around – Roald Dahl’s birthday, 13 September. In 2016, there will be global celebrations for the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth, from January through December.

Ten per cent of all the Roald Dahl royalties are donated to the two Roald Dahl charities: Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, and the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

For more information on the wonderful world of Roald Dahl, please visit:




About Penguin Random House Children’s UK

Penguin Random House Children’s UK is a Penguin Random House company. Penguin Random House (http://global.penguinrandomhouse.com/) is the world’s most global trade book publisher. It was formed on 1 July 2013 upon the completion of an agreement between Bertelsmann and Pearson to merge their respective trade publishing companies, Random House and Penguin, with the parent companies owning 53% and 47%, respectively. Penguin Random House comprises the adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction print and digital trade book publishing businesses of Penguin and Random House in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa, and Penguin’s trade publishing activity in Asia and Brazil; DK worldwide; and Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial’s Spanish-language companies in Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, and Chile. Penguin Random House employs more than 10,000 people globally across almost 250 editorially and creatively independent imprints and publishing houses that collectively publish more than 15,000 new titles annually. Its publishing lists include more than 70 Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of the world’s most widely read authors.

[1] Only 55.4% of children enjoy reading ‘very much’ or ‘quite a lot’. National Literacy Trust; June 2015.

[2] 15.4% of children don’t have a book of their own. National Literacy Trust; September 2014.

Back to Top