The Humane Society of Missouri recently launched the Book Buddies Shelter Pet Reading Program, an initiative that directly benefits shelter dogs and local children, according to The Dodo.

Kids, ages 6 to 14, who signed up for the program online are invited to the HSMO's headquarters, where—after a 10-hour training session—they read out loud to shelter dogs that have been identified as anxious. The organization hopes that the reading sessions will help the pups cope as well as make it easier for them to find new homes.

"What this is also doing is to bring the animals to the front in case potential adopters come through,” Jo Klepacki, the program's director, told The Dodo. “They are more likely to get adopted if they are approaching and interacting, rather than hiding in the back or cowering."

The program began as a one-off last Christmas and was recently expanded to once a month. So far, it has been a huge success, both for the shelter (the February session sold out) and for the kids.

"It's encouraging children to develop empathy with animals,” Klepacki said. “They're seeing fearfulness in these animals, and seeing the positive affect they can have. It encourages them to look at things from an animal's perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives."

If Book Buddies continues to be effective, Klepacki hopes to expand it to other shelters in the state and, maybe, let cats in on the action as well.

For more about the program, check out the Humane Society of Missouri's webpage here or take a look the group's video above.

Image via the Humane Society

[h/t The Dodo]