Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing has teamed up with Simon Property Group’s Kidgits Club for an exclusive partnership to present Story Hour at 79 malls nationwide. Story Hour, aimed at children ages three to seven, will be held once a month, on different dates and times throughout the country. Children will have the opportunity to listen to a reading of the stories and participate in activities. Individual local malls will be responsible for planning their specific Story Hour, including selecting the reader. In some cases, this will mean bringing in a local personality or drama group. Going forward, S&S may provide authors to read their own books for the program.

S&S has previously worked with Simon Kidgits reaching some of the mall group’s 392 properties through paid programming, such as book blasts, but the Story Hour concept is entirely new and grew out of brainstorming between Lucille Rettino, director of marketing at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, and staff at the Simon Properties Group. The only cost to S&S is the five books they are providing for each story hour. The books will be raffled off for winners to bring home. In addition, S&S is providing bookmarks for giveaway.

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to expose kids to our books,” Rettino told PW. “This partnership will build awareness for our bigger properties and brand our characters, but it will also introduce new books and characters.” Rettino noted that the dedicated Story Hour time is important in light of the dearth of bookstores in malls, overall shrinking retail space, and the competition from all media for children’s attention.

Jayne Stilson, assistant v-p of business development at Simon Property Group, said in a statement, “We’re delighted to team up with Simon & Schuster to present these stories that will entertain our Kidgits Club members and stir their imaginations at the same time.”

Among the 21 titles that will be featured in the program through December are Bear’s Loose Tooth by Karma Wilson; Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst;Ten Little Caterpillars by Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Lois Ehlert; Stars by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee; Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin; and two titles based on Ian Falconer’s Olivia series, Olivia Talks Turkey, illustrated by Jared Osterhold, and Olivia Says Good Night, illustrated by Patrick Spaziante, both adapted by Farrah McDoogle.