SPIRIT OF ALABAMA: WHEN CHILDREN READ, LIBBY LISTENS

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Many people believe if you can read well and retain the content, you can teach yourself almost anything.

When children are learning, reading out loud is one of the best ways to get better, but children can be shy when it comes to speaking up.

That’s where Mary Calhoun and Libby come in. Readers can’t get enough of Libby, a rescue from the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter.

“I really didn’t think, as my friends at Rock Quarry (Elementary) School would say, that Libby would turn into a rock star,” Calhoun said. “I can go places and people will yell Libby’s name. They don’t know who I am, but they know who Libby is.”

A retired teacher and volunteer at the shelter, Calhoun said she came up with an idea that would help children grow their reading skills. So she reached out to friends who were teachers, asking if they’d like having their students read to Libby.

“Before the school year started, we were booked for an entire year,” Calhoun said.

Recently, Calhoun and Libby paired up with Katy Elliot and Jada on a visit to Taylorville Primary School.

Children come in pairs and take turns reading to Libby and Jada. Sometimes the dogs listen attentively. And sometimes they shut their eyes and flop on the floor so they can concentrate.

Reading specialist April Henderson said it’s all about practice makes perfect.

“The more opportunities you have to read, the better reader you’ll become,” she said. “When you read it develops confidence, self-esteem, language skills, vocabulary, and it’s really just a lot of fun.”

Being a good listener sometimes makes you sleepy — bedtime stories are an obvious example. So when Libby gets sleepy, the students compensate by reading at a lower volume.

 

“Any opportunity a child gets to read the word or hear the word spoken to them, it makes all the difference in the world,” Henderson said. “I really can’t think of a better way to bond or spend time with your child than to read to them.”

 

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