Penguin and creative advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) have teamed up to launch a new Web app today that combines Google Hangouts with the classic children’s story ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’.

Storytime Hangout enables the child and a number of other users, such as friends or family, to act out some of the characters using their webcam. Each participant clicks on the face(s) of the character they would like to play – one of the three billy goats Gruff, or the villainous troll – and then starts the story using a unique icon at the bottom of the screen.

Children are then encouraged to click-through each page using the left and right arrows and read the story aloud, so everyone involved can hear. The novelty is that each page will show a snapshot of the users’ webcam with a mask of the character over their face, giving them a chance to play out the best scenes as and when they occur.

Check out the video below to get a feel for how it all works:

Video messaging services including Skype and Google Hangouts are already being used by family members to interact with one another when they’re apart. It should come as no surprise that the latter is a hit with children for reading bedtime stories, and while it’s perfectly possible to just do this with just two separate webcams, an app such as Storytime Hangout is arguably far more engaging.

“The experience of reading with children is so much more than just the text and the pictures on the page,” Anna Rafferty, MD of Penguin Digital said. “It’s the sound effects, the voices and the funny faces pulled when acting out a character that make it magical – and this app does that in a new and exciting way.

“While nothing will ever replace the act of snuggling up with a book and reading a story with a child, we’re using technology to give it a twist, enabling it to happen at long-distances, and connecting stories and readers as Penguin has always done.”

Storytime Hangout was developed by BBH London and while there’s only one story for now, there’s a lot of potential to develop other children’s books offered by Penguin.

Earlier this month, Google launched a new Hangouts app for iOS, Android and Chrome, allowing users to communicate with text, photos and video calls via – you guessed it – Google Hangouts. When Google’s Vic Gundotra announced the new product on stage at the company’s I/O developer conference, he said it was designed to create “conversations which last” and “with people that you love.”

We think the new Storytime Hangout app from Penguin and BBH embodies this idea almost perfectly.

Storytime Hangout

Image Credit: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images