HarperCollins Children’s Books is aiming to engage young readers with a new online platform. This fall, the publisher will debut its HarperKids Storytime series on YouTube, inviting kids ages four through eight and their families to take part in an interactive read-aloud of some of their favorite picture books. The first two episodes will drop on September 25, with new segments airing every subsequent Monday through December 11.

Independent and Inclusive. Storytime is hosted by a rainbow sweater-clad reader, Sky, sitting in a yellow chair atop a cloud. The program was developed in response to the continued demand for quality online content for young readers. “Our goal was to create something that a parent can put in front of their child when they need to be less hands-on for a few minutes, as well as something parents can watch with their kids as part of their reading routine,” said Sam Fox, director of marketing at HarperCollins Children’s Books. YouTube was chosen as the appropriate platform for its child safety features, longer form video content, and community-building properties.

Each 12-minute program follows a similar format, with Sky greeting her audience and introducing the story she’ll be guiding them through. As she reads, the camera shifts to a top- down view of the selected book, enabling Sky to point to the text and help kids follow along. They will also have an opportunity to answer questions and help solve problems with Sky as she pauses for what Fox calls “learning moments”—a key component of the Storytime experience. “We know that social-emotional learning helps children become more self-aware, make decisions out of kindness and empathy, and build strong, supportive relationships,” Fox said, adding that each episode is designed to engage readers and connect to the stories.

Featured Storytime books include a mix of new and classic titles, such as Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, and Neil Gaiman’s What You Need to Be Warm (Oct. 31). Selections were made based on consumer demand for storytime videos on YouTube, as well as those that offer seasonal tie-ins and additional educational opportunities. Guest appearances from Gaiman and Henkes, among other book creators, will show them introducing or reading from their own books.

To extend the reading experience, HarperCollins will provide supplementary resources, including q&a materials and guides and opportunities to purchase books on the HarperKids blog and on social media. Fox believes these teaching tools will help to further cement the HarperKids brand and that Storytime will offer consistent content for engaging young readers. “Just as Epic Reads has been a beacon in the YA literature world for over a decade, HarperKids aims to be the go-to resource for kids, parents, caregivers, teachers, and librarians alike,” she said.