Misty Copeland, Danica McKellar, Tiffani Thiessen, Brady Smith, and B. J. Novak will be among the bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators participating in the daily virtual storytimes

By Dave Quinn
March 23, 2020 08:07 AM

A new nationwide reading movement is launching through a virtual storytime program with celebrity readers to help stress the power and importance of the shared reading experience between parents and children.

Misty Copeland, Danica McKellar, Tiffani Thiessen, Brady Smith, B. J. Novak, and Scott Kelly will be among the bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators participating in the daily virtual storytimes.

Originally set for launch this summer, the sessions moved up to support parents and caregivers at home during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

They’re all part of the Read Together, Be Together (#ReadTogetherBeTogether) campaign, which kicked off on Monday and aims to help make family reading a regular and cherished activity. The program is the brain child of the U.S. children’s divisions of publishing giant Penguin Random House in partnership with Parents magazine — which, like PEOPLE, is owned by Meredith Corporation.

The campaign also includes an extensive list of recommended age-appropriate books, as well as reading tips for caregivers developed with Parents.

Reading aloud regularly to babies and young children is seen as “one of the most effective ways to foster early literacy and is a key factor in building language and social skills,” the campaign says.

Misty Copeland, Tiffani Thiessen, and B. J. Novak
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images; Leon Bennett/Getty Images; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

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To help, Penguin Random House will also be donating 750,000 books through First Book, a nonprofit known for providing educational resources to children in need.

They’ll drop specially priced exclusive editions of child-and-parent favorite titles through retailers later this summer.

Additionally, Parents will theme its entire August issue around reading. The magazine it launching a new children’s book column starting in June, too.

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“We’re very proud to be partnering with Parents magazine on such an important initiative, particularly at a time when there is a great need for resources to help caregivers foster reading within the home,” Barbara Marcus, president and publisher at Random House Children’s Books, and Jen Loja, president and publisher at Penguin Young Readers, said in a joint statement. “Parents and guardians play a crucial role in our mission to create lifelong readers, and we are excited about this new program to support them. We’re also eager to work with our authors and illustrators on continuing to connect virtually, with readers during this time.”

“Now more than ever, reading together is a comforting way to connect with our kids,” added Parents‘ editor-in-chief Julia Edelstein. “Books can transport them to different worlds, spark their curiosity, and make them laugh. Celebrating the magic of stories has always been part of our brand’s DNA, and we’re delighted to be partnering with Penguin Random House to bring even more content to families.”

Said First Book president, CEO, and co-founder Kyle Zimmer: “We are so happy to be working on this wonderful and important campaign to encourage family reading. We know from experience that kids having books and story time at home helps create a sense of normalcy that is sorely needed in the midst of this crisis. First Book is working to ensure that kids in need across the country have books at home during this time while most are out of school. Thanks to the generosity of our publishing partners like Random House Children’s Books and Penguin Young Readers, we have 7 million free books to distribute to those who need them most, so countless children can have family story times in the coming weeks.”

A full schedule of the virtual storytimes can be found at readtogetherbetogether.com.

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