Penguin Random House launches new app to help kids tap into the magic of reading

The early access web app, called Living Stories, leverages smart home technology to bring books to life in a multi-sensory way

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Penguin Random House Canada is proud to announce the launch of the early access web app, Living Stories, which aims to transform every bedtime story into an immersive experience. The app was developed to ignite children’s love for books by leveraging the popularity of smart home technology to bring a multi-sensory experience to reading and cater to a digitally-native generation. By using predetermined cues that activate smart lights and sound effects, Living Stories connects with the sound of caregivers’ voices while they’re reading from a selection of physical books with their children.

Children are facing declines in their abilities in reading, according to recent reports. A 2023 study in the US unveiled that only 14 percent of students affirm that they read for fun every day. A study from the OECD shows that reading scores across the globe dropped critically by 10 points from 2018 to 2022, which equates to losing over half a year of learning.

Penguin Random House Canada’s Living Stories web app

Penguin Random House Canada’s Living Stories is a completely free and functional web app that brings to life children’s books you read aloud with smart lights in your home and your smartphone speakers. For the launch of Living Stories, Penguin Random House Canada collaborated with creators Ben Clanton; Chris Hadfield and the Fan Brothers; Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein, and Bram Morrison with Randi Hampson and Qin Leng; and Eija Sumner and Nici Gregory, to bring five children’s books to the app’s library: Bubbles; Blankie; The Darkest Dark; Sharon, Lois and Bram’s Skinnamarink; and The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime. When these books are read aloud, certain sentences and words trigger lights to change color and sounds to punctuate certain moments, making reading an even more immersive moment to propel engagement and learning.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand the startling drop in children’s capabilities in reading books and how parents felt powerless towards that issue. I see the direct impact on kids’ abilities to decode words, the richness of their vocabulary, the depth of their imagination, and even their mathematical skills,” says Sarah Labbé, a special education teacher with nearly 10 years of experience in the field. “This initiative is an innovative and easy way for parents to help their little ones develop those essential skills for their development and spend precious moments with them using technology they grew up with.”

“We are excited to launch Living Stories to bring a fun and interactive element to the cherished bedtime story experience kids love so much,” says Beth Lockley, Vice-President, Marketing and Communications at Penguin Random House Canada. “Reading is so important for learning and to build empathy and awareness about the world around us—any way we can get kids reading and engaging with stories, especially by such beloved children’s authors and illustrators, is absolutely essential.”

How to enjoy Penguin Random House Canada’s Living Stories experience

Step 1: On your mobile, visit penguinlivingstories.com and follow the onscreen instructions for the first-time setup guide.

Step 2: Tap on the cover of the book you would like to read.

Step 3: Pick up the physical copy of the book and tap on Start Reading.

Step 4: Set your phone by your side, and prepare your little one to enter a wonderful world of stories.

The current beta version of Living Stories has been developed through Philips open source software and is only accessible with a Philips Hue Bridge (main hub to control your light) and a compatible smart light bulb. Click here to see the full list.

To make reading a magical moment for kids, everyone is invited to visit penguinlivingstories.com.