Girl reading to dog (iStock)

Therapy dogs, assistance dogs and family dogs have established roles in the lives of their humans, but would you consider introducing a pack of audience dogs to your class? Well an assistant professor of education in the UK reckons children can benefit from reading to their canine friends and she’s not alone.

“Reading to dogs is gaining popularity as a way of addressing concerns about children’s reading,” the University of Nottingham’s Gill Johnson writes in the Conversation.

The academic value of children reading for their own pleasure is well known, she acknowledges, but there are benefits to reading to others, and particularly pets.

“A dog creates an environment that immediately feels more relaxed and welcoming,” Johnson writes.

“Reading can be a solitary activity, but can also be a pleasurable, shared social event. Children who are struggling to read benefit from the simple pleasure of reading to a loyal, loving listener.”

The strategy isn’t completely unprecedented, Johnson argues. The US Intermountain Therapy Animals and UK Kennel Club‘s programs with animals trained to listen to readers have reportedly been met with enthusiasm.

And while the evidence hasn’t proven to be conclusive just yet, Johnson says a 2016 PLOS One survey of the literature suggests the literacy skills of children reading to dogs do indeed improve.

Cats, however, are another matter.