Libby Listens: Pup’s Visits to Area Schools Aimed at Encouraging Kids to Read Aloud Featured

Libby is always glad to hear the students’ read to her. The students, in turn, can relax and improve their reading skills. Libby is always glad to hear the students’ read to her. The students, in turn, can relax and improve their reading skills. Amelia Pilsch

By Amelia Pilsch

Meet Libby, a beautiful former Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter dog, who accompanies her human, Mary Calhoun, all over Tuscaloosa County, listening to students read. Calhoun, a retired elementary school teacher, brings Libby to schools each Wednesday, where readers receive stickers that say, “I read to a dog today and I liked it.” They also receive Metro Animal Shelter pencils and a book about dogs for their classroom library. Recently, Libby paid a visit to Rock Quarry Elementary School. 

How do students benefit from reading to a dog? Libby’s purpose is to provide a relaxed atmosphere that encourages students to practice reading aloud. When children have difficulties reading, they often develop a lack of self-confidence and are reluctant to read to others. By sitting down next to a dog and reading to a dog, all threats of being judged disappear. The child relaxes, pets the attentive dog, and focuses on reading. Students improve their reading skills, build self-esteem and associate reading with something fun. 

Improving reading skills is the major benefit of the program, but there are other benefits that evolve from this activity, too.  

“When students finished reading selections, other students wanted to check out the books that had been shared with Libby,” Leanna McWilliams, a teacher at Rock Quarry, said. 

Listening to the books generated interest and motivated the students to read more. 

Libby with her human, Mary Calhoun. The pair travel to schools weekly, allowing students to read aloud to the patient, sweet and attentive dog.

Not all students are comfortable around dogs. Some have not had an opportunity to be with dogs and are fearful. As a student interacts with a dog like Libby, they develop a better understanding of animals. Rock Quarry students have grown to love Libby and look forward to her visits.  

There are benefits for the handler, too.  

“It is meaningful to me to reconnect with former colleagues, students and reading, as well as educating children about the humane treatment of animals and pet adoption,” Calhoun said. 

Libby and her friend Jada are both available for listening beginning Fall 2017.  To book a school visit, contact Mary Calhoun at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Amelia Pilsch is a Librarian and Rock Quarry Elementary School.

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