11/01/2012 02:38 GMT | Updated 11/03/2012 05:12 GMT

McDonald's To Give Away Children's Books By Michael Morpurgo With Their Happy Meals

McDonald's is planning to give away millions of children’s books written by War Horse author Michael Morpurgo with their meals after signing a partnership with publishers HarperCollins.

The fast food chain is generally perceived as an unhealthy choice for consumers – despite attempts in recent years to adjust their image by including salads and fruit on their menus – but the new scheme will mean that, in one sense at least, taking your youngster for a Happy Meal will actually be good for them.

Approximately 9m copies of the Mudpuddle Farm series by Michael Morpurgo will be given out between today and 7 February – making McDonald's, for a period, the country’s biggest children’s book retailer. In 2011 an average of only 6.4m kid’s titles were sold every four week.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, told PA: "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."

Each copy of either Mossop’s Last Chance, Albertine, Goose Queen, Pigs Might Fly!, Jigger’s Day Off, Martians at Mudpuddle Farm or Mum’s the Word will also come with a finger puppet.

"It is so important to get children into books and to ingrain a love of literature. If that starts in a McDonald's, that's fine by me," Morpurgo told the Independent.

The Mudpuddle series were written by Morpurgo between 1988 and 1995, five years before he became the UK’s Child Laureate in 2003, a position he held until 2005. His work as children’s writer has won him several awards, including the Whitbread Children’s Award in 1995 and two Smarties Book Awards in 1996 and 2002.

This year though his star is set to rise even higher thanks to Hollywood - his 1982 book War Horse has just been turned into a film by Steven Spielberg and is already attracting rave reviews.